Americans love their traditions so there's no wonder that we celebrate Thanksgiving, the granddaddy of American traditions, with such zeal. It’s been celebrated annually since 1863 and in less than one hundred and fifty years we’ve managed to link a myriad of allied traditions to the day - parades, football games, family gatherings, afternoon naps, even Presidential turkey pardons. You probably have your own annual customs, we all do, but I’ll take a stab in the dark and guess that yours, in some way, includes food. You’re in good company, because I think we’re all in the same boat. Admit it, the first time you even heard the T word in early fall, wasn’t food among your first thoughts? Sure, you might have subsequently thought about a day home from work, some great Black Friday discounts, or how to plan the family get together, but the word Thanksgiving itself initially brings to mind copious amounts of carefully prepared groceries, doesn’t it? For you, maybe it’s a slow roasted turkey and the smell that permeates through the house (a piece of tasty light meat or a succulent dark drumstick, what’s your pleasure?), or perhaps it’s Mom’s yummy sweet potatoes or that special holiday recipe that she only makes once a year. Maybe you’ve been having random thoughts all month about how to save room for some pumpkin or pecan pie. (Or could you have both?) Then again, maybe it just comes down to the fact that this is the one day that we’re all allowed to eat as much as we want and no one is allowed to talk about diet, carbs, sugar, cholesterol, fat grams, or calories. This is a day of eating until you have to loosen your belt. You are actually allowed (and expected) to feel perfectly fine about feeling absolutely miserable! It is said that the first Thanksgiving lasted three days, but the way this holiday has evolved, I’m not sure that anyone could survive three days of sanctioned gluttony, though many might enjoy trying!
One of my favorite traditions is a bit more obscure. As a child I always loved a chance to grasp one end of the turkey wishbone and hope for an opportunity to get my wish. I may be a much more pragmatic adult, but I’ll still admit to saving the wishbone. Hey, why not? Okay, so wishes really don’t come true from a wish bone. I know it and you know it, but there is that one brief magical moment when your pinky is wrapped around that tiny sliver and realism vanishes when you pull for…! Hey, don’t tell me, or it won’t come true, right?
I once worked at a school that attracted many foreign students. It was always a pleasure to share our American traditions and one year I had just such an opportunity when a large November potluck dinner became a first Thanksgiving feast for a young Norwegian student, his wife and their two small boys. As they were eating their turkey dinner with all the trimmings, I was on carving duty and noticed the wishbone. I knew I couldn’t just throw away the wishbone, someone should have the chance for a bit of luck, but who? Then I remembered the little Norwegian boys. I cleaned up the bone a bit, walked over to where the family was sitting, knelt down so they could hear me over the din of conversation and handed the bone to the young parents. Smiling, I told them, “I saw this and thought of your boys. Have fun!” I walked back to my work, then glanced back over my shoulder, fully expecting to see two excited little boys tugging on a wishbone. Instead what I saw were the most bewildered faces on a family of four I’d ever seen. The turkey bone had now been placed on the table between them as if it were an unexploded bomb that no one knew how to disarm. Completely befuddled, the family kept shooting glances between each other and the little bone in the middle of the table. Before they pondered my sanity any further, I raced back over to the table as the student picked up the bone and asked me in his best English, “Please, why do you think of my children when you see this little turkey bone?” Lesson learned; traditions are not always universal.
I’m not cooking a whole bird this year. Oh, we’ll have plenty of trimmings, but since we’re having a small quiet holiday this year there will be just enough turkey for us and no wishbone. Strangely enough though, I still have the wishbone I pulled from a turkey two years ago sitting in my kitchen window. I know, it’s a bit bizarre to keep a wishbone for two years, much less to display it in your window, but I set it aside on that day and there it has sat ever since. It’s gradually become a peculiar decoration if you will, a remembrance of a Thanksgiving gone by. Then, as time passed it almost seemed wrong to snap it, as if it were holding its luck, like a horseshoe over a door or a four-leaf clover pressed in a book. Then again, maybe it’s just waiting for the right two people on the right Thanksgiving day to take their chances. I know, I’m being silly, but it wouldn’t be the first time I was accused of thinking or doing something a bit off the wall. Who knows, maybe I’ll do something with it this week, after all, it is just a turkey bone...
Forever on Thanksgiving Day, the heart will find the pathway home… ~Wilbur D. Nesbit
To my beloved family back home (for whom I am very thankful) and to everyone reading this, I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.
Please remember those with less than a cornucopia of provisions on their table this Thanksgiving. Keep your local food bank in mind, today and throughout the continuing Holiday Season.