A man in Phoenix calls his son in New York the day before Thanksgiving and says,”I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough.”
“Pop, what are you talking about?” the son screams.
“We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer,” the father says. “We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her.”
Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. “Like heck they’re getting divorced,” she shouts, “I’ll take care of this.”
She calls Phoenix immediately, and screams at her father, “You are NOT getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?” and hangs up.
The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. “Okay,” he says, “they’re coming for Thanksgiving and paying their own way.”
I laughed when I read the above story. Many of us with grown children will do almost anything to get our family together. Isn’t Thanksgiving supposed to be about families? That, and devouring lots of delicious carbs, playing Scrabble or Candyland, gazing at people in helmets and cleats running back and forth on the TV, and the pièce de résistance of all Thanksgivings~arguing over political differences while angrily throwing Scrabble letter tiles at each other. And oh yeah, Thanksgiving is about being thankful.
I recently read a statement by an Atlanta-based psychiatrist who explained that holiday times are the peak time for family violence and visits to emergency rooms. This makes me wonder how things can get so out of control? But even though you might not end up in the hospital with injuries from flying letter tiles, it’s true that holidays can be some of the most stressful times of the year.
Not to say there aren’t loving American families gathered around the turkey-laden table in perfect peace and harmony saying sweetly to one another, “Please pass the gravy, you darling person.”
With that said, how did Thanksgiving morph from its humble beginning in 1621 with 53 surviving Pilgrims thanking God for their harvest to the modern-day celebration of family members rushing from the Thanksgiving table and sprinting out the door to get in line for Black Friday sales?
First off, the Pilgrims did not have the bombardment of TV advertisements to help them understand what they need in order to have happiness and joy. TV commercials help people realize that buying things at a discount is way more important than spending time with your family. If the Pilgrims had the exposure to TV like we do, they probably wouldn’t have hung around celebrating with the Massasoit. Instead, they would have said, “What’s that you say? Black Friday starts at noon today and has 40% off pre-plucked, spit-roasted wildfowl?” The first harvest festival of 1621 would have been deserted.
Advertising has a way of interfering with our life, tempting us with images of joy and happiness with the addition of certain products. As an example, I watched a TV commercial earlier today showing an elderly man (at least 40!) seated at a huge Thanksgiving table with all his relatives. The viewers are given the privilege of hearing his thoughts as he thinks how dull it is to listen to the other adults talk about property taxes and their aches and pains. He laments the dry pie placed before him while glancing longingly over at the kids’ table. The children giggle and bubble with joy because they pass around the can of Reddi-Wip. Seated on their knees, the children squirt Reddi-wip all over their candy-sprinkled desserts. The bored adult says to the other adults at the table, “I’m outta here.” He tosses his linen napkin and heads for the kids’ table where he has Reddi-wip and fun with the other kids.
I don’t know what you take from this. But I got the strong impression that Reddi-wip brings joy to your Thanksgiving. I’m putting it on my shopping list.
But the Pilgrims didn’t have Reddi-wip TV commercials to tell them how fun life could be with a can of whipped cream. My guess is they didn’t have a kids’ table either. They probably didn’t play Scrabble while gnawing on their corn cobs. Instead, the 53 survivors had each other and thankfulness to God.
Our Thanksgiving today isn’t so much about gratefulness for abundance or surviving a harsh winter. (Okay, some of you might want to celebrate survival of a harsh winter, depending on where you live.) Even so, we have reason for continuing the Thanksgiving tradition because it gives us a day to get together with family we don’t often see throughout the year. And it gives us a day to express thankfulness to God. If we didn’t have this day set aside, would we ever do it on our own?
Finally, Thanksgiving offers a perfect opportunity to squirt Reddi-wip all over your pie, all over your plate, and all over the table while hollering “yahoo” at the top of your lungs. Go ahead. Add some zest to your life. I dare you.