by R.A. Jones
In recent years (and in part because a very small part of my ethnic make-up is Native American), mention of Thanksgiving inevitably brings to mind a great bit by The Daily Show’s then-host John Stewart. It went something like this:
“I intend to celebrate Thanksgiving in the traditional way. I’m going to invite all my neighbors over for a big feast – then kill them and take their land.”
In my own life, there really is no single specific memory of one Thanksgiving Day above all others, but simply a warm trove of collective memories.
First, naturally enough, there is the food. I came from a very large family, and while we never experienced anything remotely resembling a shortage of food on our table, no day saw an abundance so great as on that special Thursday in November.
Turkey, of course (one of the largest you could buy in those pre-steroid days, I imagine). Dressing and dumplings (homemade: nothing that came in a box or a can), green bean casserole, corn. Hot dinner rolls dripping with margarine.
And desserts, too. Pumpkin pie (which I always liked, but largely as the simple loading platform for generous dollops of whipped cream!). And my mom baked homemade apple/cranberry pies that were out of this world.
After a certain age, I became mom’s unofficial “taste tester” as she prepared the fixings for her dressing before popping it into the oven. It took a sophisticated palette like mine to tell her when she had added just the right amount of sage!
We would continue to dine off the leftovers for several days afterward. The final stage came when dad would scrape off every last shred of meat still stubbornly clinging to the turkey bones and mom would serve us creamed turkey on toast.
That’s right: Our final and still fondly remembered meal of the holiday consisted of a feathered version of what GIs, doubtless with equal fondness, called “s#!t on a shingle!”
Then came the football game. The connection of this game with the holiday goes back, if I’m not mistaken, to the very first Thanksgiving: when the two sides played a rousing post-feast game of touch football. (The Pilgrims, naturally, being the “shirts” while the Indians were the “skins.” Ouch!)
I’ve been a lifelong fan of the Dallas Cowboys (or nearly so; they are actually a few years younger than I am!), and watching them play was and still is considered by me to be one of my personal “traditions” of the holiday.
That does in turn play into one Thanksgiving memory that is very specific. A couple of decades or more ago, about a week before Turkey Day, I received a phone call from an old buddy of mine (who was and is a much bigger name in the comics biz than I ever was or ever will be).
The reason behind his call was rather amusing (to me, at least. Probably less so for him.). The lady he was dating at the time had invited him to her parents’ house for Thanksgiving.
This would also be the first time he met her family and he understandably wanted to make a good first impression. One thing that made him apprehensive about this was the fact that her father and brothers were football fans and he would almost certainly be expected to watch the games on TV that day with them.
Only problem: Having no interest in the sport, my buddy also had virtually no knowledge of the teams involved or the nuances of the game. Yet he didn’t want to just sit there like a lump on a log and make no contributions to the kind of conversation that always surrounds a game.
So, knowing I did possess at least a modicum of such, he called on me to be his living version of Cliff’s Notes for Football!
Alas, his relationship with said lady did not progress to the point of matrimony and eventually ended altogether. I hope it wasn’t because I failed to adequately school him on the finer points of football.
Finally…I know it might be easy in such perilous times as now – pandemic, unemployment, fires, hurricanes – to think that you have precious little for which you can really be thankful.
I don’t know if this will be useful to you, but something that helps me, at least a little, in such times of my life derives from the chorus of a wonderful tune Bing Crosby sang in the classic motion picture White Christmas (if I may be excused for tapping into a different holiday):
When I’m worried and I can’t sleep,
I count my blessings instead of sheep.
And I fall asleep
Counting my blessings.
One of those blessings for me this year is my inclusion in the Silverline “family.”
Hope you all have equal reason to feel thankful!