There’s been one thought repeating itself over and over in my head the past couple of days. It occurred to me on Wednesday as I pulled my almost thawed turkey out of the refrigerator and struggled with it in the sink. It echoed again as I sat yesterday with my family. And even today – Black Friday – it is with me. And that thought is this: it is amazing how one little (or in some cases, not so little) turkey can bring people together. Of course there is that saying that “if you feed them, they will come.” I believe that’s true. But if you think about the number of Sunday dinners you’ve missed, the number of times you’ve skipped a meal to do something that seemed a little more important, I think you’ll have to agree with me that there is something about the turkey that’s magical. Because, after all, to skip the turkey would be almost unheard of, right? I mean, you’d almost have to be on your deathbed to call your family and say, “Hey…you know what? I’m gonna skip it this year.”
So why is that? What is it about this one meal, once a year, that beckons Americans to a table with people they may only see once or twice a year? I think the answer is simple: tradition. And so I’ve also been carrying around another thought this week. Actually, it is more of an emotion than a thought. It is a profound worry that as a society, we are ambushing our traditions and shortchanging ourselves in the process. And I think we are all aware that it’s happening.
Think about this: Labor Day comes and the summer is over. But then, BAM! Before we know it, Halloween candy is lining the shelves of our grocery stores and costume shops are popping up in strip malls. And while we are running our credit cards through a machine to pay for the sugar, retailers are already putting up turkeys and advertising cranberry sauce. We are preparing our Thanksgiving dinner to the sound of Christmas carols (OK, that last one is kind of nice). And now, we are shopping on Thanksgiving night as if a month is not enough time to purchase all the gifts we’ve convinced ourselves are necessary to adorn the bottom of the tree. A lot of people comment about this rush. Many share my concern. And yet, it continues to happen, every year at a more alarming rate. If we’re not careful, we may someday see Santa abandon his winter apparel for a sexy little ensemble from Fredrick’s of Hollywood, and “Ho, ho, ho” could easily turn into a new Valentine’s Day slogan.
Tonight, I will warm up the Thanksgiving leftovers and we will again enjoy all the fixings. It will be delicious. Some even say that the leftovers “are the best part.” Maybe that’s because for one more moment, they allow me to hold onto the tradition… to savor not only the taste of Thanksgiving, but the feeling it gives me to gather with those I love. The leftovers remind me that someone spent an entire day preparing for my arrival. I can recall how beautifully the table was set, as if I were a very special guest. And the smell in the house will make me feel more at home than any present under the tree this holiday season. What will be “leftover” will be my feeling of connectedness…to my family…to my friends…to all those I love.
Amazing what one little turkey can do.