|From the 1963 Hudson's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Detroit|
First and foremost, a most Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Enjoy the day with family, with friends, or by yourself.
When I was young, this was a national holiday. Almost everyone had the day off. There were no businesses open and the streets so lightly trafficked that the business and shopping districts seemed like ghost towns. It was even hard to find a gas station that was open. People and businesses took the notion of Thanksgiving being a National Holiday seriously. It was simply the way things were done.
Sometimes the auto factories were open and people had to work. Sales had to be robust for this to occur, however, to justify the double time they had to pay on a holiday. There were football games that included some long standing high school rivalries. In Detroit, the Lions always played on Thanksgiving. Growing up, they would play the Green Bay Packers. Those two teams will square off again later today.
Mostly Thanksgiving was about family. I remember it as a hybrid holiday. We had an Armenian style American Thanksgiving. We would gather at my maternal Grandmother's who would prepare a bountiful Armenian and American feast. We were with my mother's side of the family in Detroit. There were eight cousins that were delighted to see each other and have fun at each and every holiday. Ours was no different than many other families and it was all good. Our Thanksgivings in Detroit were closer to the tone and tenor of midwest as portrayed in iconic movie, A Christmas Story.
Today we are driving from Illinois to my sister Ani and her husband Jeff's house. They have taken over having Thanksgiving in their home. Being a car aficionado and collector, he was a four car garage that is like a showroom. They move the cars out and set tables to accommodate the fifty or extended family that they invite. It is the new and most enjoyable Thanksgiving tradition that everyone enjoys and looks forward to.
When we lived in Wilton, Connecticut, Thanksgivings had much more of an "over the river and through the woods" ambiance. Wilton, in large parts, was what one might imagine a Currier and Ives town to have evolved to in our times. It was, after all, New England. It was wooded, hilly, with both rivers and streams. There were plenty of reminders of colonial days if one was attuned to such.
I recall meeting a lady approximately my age. Our daughters were classmates in middle school at the time. We were at a orchestra concert and were talking before the concert started. I came to learn that she was a lifelong resident of Wilton as were her parents and grandparents. That put here in an extremely small demographic as almost everyone else I met seemed to be from someplace else. I asked her what Wilton was like in her childhood. She said it was very rural. The town was mostly dirt roads. The Wilton of her youth was in the last days of its farming past. She paused a moment and then added that she fondly remembers riding her horse from her parents home to her grandmother's house one Thanksgiving in the late 1960s. How cool was that. Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house indeed.
Things change and they don't change. Older traditions fade out and newer ones... well newer ones seem rise and take hold faster. There are cool new traditions with the Turkey Trot 10K runs that most communities have. This allows folks to burn calories and then have a healthy dinner rather than just overeat.
On the other hand, shopping seems to have encroached on this holiday. It seems like every retail store is open. They have door buster sales that begin at all kinds of odd hours. It is crazy but people take advantage of it and it has become a new Thanksgiving tradition for many. In this respect, it could not be any different than the ghost town days I referred to in the beginning of this piece. We will be driving soon to Michigan with no worries about finding open gas stations. Land for Brave, Home of the Free to spend your money.
While I will not be hitting any door buster Thanksgiving sales today or the remainder of the weekend, I will keep asking my nieces and nephews "Who wants to go to Wal Mart? Come on let's all go." That is a Thanksgiving tradition I have kind of started.
So whatever it is you do... enjoy. Do take some time to be thankful and appreciative of what you have. The most precious of what any of have, and maybe do not note nearly enough, is each other.