Quissmiss is coming soon, so put up your dekorwayshons.
(Recent note handed to Mom by the six year-old)
We walk a fine line at Thanksgiving time, and have done so ever since Connor’s arrival (two weeks ahead of schedule) on Thanksgiving Day. Actually, that’s not true – the first four or so years, we outright celebrated our amazing good fortune at having a child on Thanksgiving. I was generally pleased to have a child with a fall birthday, because I love the fall. (It didn’t occur to me until later on, when my child was old enough to express opinions about party venues, that a fall birthday means no pool party birthday, no Ranger game birthday . . . the list goes on.) And we were specifically pumped about a THANKSGIVING birthday, because that meant that my parents and best college friend would be in town for the holiday and therefore would be available to participate in a birthday party.
Then three things happened. In chronological order:
1) Little brother was born . . . at the end of October. B.P. (Before Parker), Connor had a monopoly on the entire season. A.P., pumpkin patch and Boo at the Zoo visits, trick-or-treating, etc., came to be associated with the little one and the little one’s birthday.
2) Soon thereafter, Connor started school, and suddenly Thanksgiving became more of an impediment than a help, in terms of ensuring that folks would be around for a party. Kids were out of school, parents took advantage of the time off to take vacations – you get the idea.
3) Connor grew into a tween – and decided that Thanksgiving, as holidays go, and CERTAINLY in comparison to little bro’s holiday, is, well, kind of lacking.
Dad, a story that can’t possibly happen is fantasy. A story that COULD happen but DIDN’T is REALISTIC FICTION.
(Statement made last week by the six year-old)
When I was cleaning out Connor’s backpack at the end of the last school year, I came across his creative writing journal, and in it was an essay about why he hated having a Thanksgiving birthday. Among other complaints, the food was nothing to write home about: Connor is not a turkey fan, or a stuffing fan, or a sweet potato casserole fan, or a pie fan. And did I mention that little bro cornered the Halloween candy market? Of greater concern, quote, “if I have my birthday at my house, my mom always has her lame harvest decorations out.”
Okay, I don’t think my decorations are THAT lame, and I definitely dial it down between October 31st and November 1st (well, sometimes we decorate for Day of the Dead – but by November 3rd, it’s dialed, for sure):
Anyway, I asked Connor about the essay, and he assured me that “it’s not how I feel, EXACTLY – I used SOME artistic license.”
So . . . put that one in the “realistic fiction” column, I guess.
And so we get to the fine line – too much “pilgrims and parades,” and I get an eye roll, but Lord forbid that we don’t give the holiday some semblance of a fair shake.
Here’s where the real frustration comes in: as a culture (well, specifically as a retail culture), we seem to have lost Thanksgiving. It has disappeared into the chasm of the new, blended holiday of Hallomas, which, it appears, we are supposed to celebrate from October 1st until the end of December. And, when I say “celebrate,” what I mean is “buy things.” But it’s really become seamless: the minute the stockers at Super Target have packed down Back to School, the Halloween displays come rolling in. Two days prior to Halloween, what candy is left has been condensed down to a few shelves, to make room for the Christmas ornaments.
This year, Super Target gave two end caps to Thanksgiving – across the store from the Hallomas area. One of them was devoted to peanut oil for turkey frying. Blink and you might miss both of them.
When I attempted over the weekend to acquire a new scarecrow-on-a-post to put in the front yard, I was APPALLED to find that, as of November 14th, there was not one morsel of Thanksgiving left at my local craft store. I suspect that the turkeys blew town with the jack o’ lanterns.
And now there is Christmas music coming out of my car radio.
I guess we have ourselves to blame – store buyers buy what they buy, and radio programmers play what they play, for a reason, don’t they? I also blame the political correctness movement. Back when you could say “pilgrims and Indians” without being labeled a racist, Thanksgiving was a very big deal, in large part because of the traditional elementary school “Thanksgiving feast.” I don’t remember what we ate, exactly (I vaguely recall some sort of corn pone concoction?), but I remember the costumes like it was yesterday. Paper pilgrim hats and stiff white paper collars, and – if you had the tremendous fortune of drawing “Indian” out of the hat – a construction paper feathered headdress and a fringed pillowcase dress or tunic (depending on your gender). Remember those? You colored designs on them, or painted them, and used scissors to cut out neck and armholes to fringe the bottom? I bet back in the day there were entire end caps devoted to white pillowcases – because everyone had to have one.
Another factor contributing to Thanksgiving’s downfall – cable TV. When you only had three channels (four, counting PBS), “specials” were as much of a treat as wearing a fringed pillowcase. You had Miss America and the Olympics, you had the Jerry Lewis Telethon and Battle of the Network Stars, and – sandwiched between the Great Pumpkin and Rudolph – you had the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I remember actually waking up early for this, so that I would be in front of the TV when coverage began, and once it started, I was glued to the set. When I try to get the kids to watch with me, I barely can keep their interest for fifteen minutes. “Um, Mom, you can keep watching this in here. We’ll go into the other room and watch whatever is on Cartoon Network.”
So I find myself in the rather unique position this week of sort of hating on the December holidays – not on what they stand for, but on the commercialism associated with them. Mind you, my fit of pique didn’t stop me from buying a dark purple feather wreath at JoAnn for the bargain price of $9.99 during the Great Scarecrow Hunt of Last Sunday. (Hey, it was a scratch-and-dent, but it will look great in the den once I add some ribbon to it.) But I did have the courtesy to at least feel sort of guilty about it.
So . . . do me a favor and, in honor of my kid, continue to keep Thanksgiving close to your heart. But, you know, don’t go overboard. Don’t do anything that might embarrass him. Just walk that fine line with me – all the way over the river and through the woods, to wherever it is that you gather together.
A soon-to-be eleven year-old thanks you – as does his mom.