Thanksgiving is far and away my favorite holiday. It is simple, no gifts, little hype, just a day to gather with friends, family, possibly even strangers, then give thanks and eat. It has become very much the last day of sanity before the dam that holds back Christmas commercialism bursts.
We’ve had happy Thanksgivings, less happy Thanksgivings. We’ve had fun Thanksgivings; I’d say last year, spending the day at Disneyworld hits the high mark on the Thanksgiving fun meter! We’ve had Thanksgivings that were quiet and some that were, especially since becoming parents, quite loud. I even spent one Thanksgiving in a guard tower in Afghanistan. While not fun, I was still thankful that things weren’t worse.
I even still like watching the parades on TV. Those big goofy balloons have always been just inexplicably fun to watch, they’re like a lollipop for the soul.
I don’t have a “best” Thanksgiving. I’m a little sad to say I don’t even remember most of the 41 Thanksgivings I’ve seen. Some of them, like Disneyworld, I’ll never forget. One that I think back to quite frequently, and have for decades, is one Thanksgiving during college.
I was going to school in Rapid City and living in my fraternity’s house. We always joked that, since Mines was a small engineering college, our Theta Tau house was an environment best-described as a combination of the movies Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds. As classes were getting ready to let out for most of that week, a big nasty South Dakota blizzard moved through and shut down most of the travel around the state. All of the guys that had trips home cancelled them and stayed put at the house. This, in and of itself, led to big fun. There were no classes but nearly everyone from the whole school was still around. Use your imagination.
I grew up locally and the drive home to Thanksgiving with Mom and Dad was just a quick 30 minute trip across roads that had opened up by that Thursday. So, after getting Mom’s blessing, I invited as many brothers as were interested to come and spend Thanksgiving with my folks and me. It was otherwise just going to be the three of us.
About a dozen guys took me up on it and we convoyed over to my parents’ place. It was a little cramped, I think we wound up setting up a card table that quickly was dubbed the little kids’ table. As always, there was more than enough food, but we did make a much larger dent in all the table fare than would have just the three of us. Countless stories were told from all sides of the tables. I think both my brothers and my parents were each a little surprised at how interesting the others were.
After dinner, there were more than enough hands to make quick work of the dishes, so Mom and Dad actually got a break. I’m pretty sure we helped Dad with a small project or two around the house. After all that was done, I vividly remember just relaxing around the house, enjoying how my two worlds had meshed together so well without incident and with very little planning. Mom and Dad had met maybe only one or two of these guys, they didn’t know the rest from Adam. And who knows what my brothers thought they were getting into by traveling into the incubator of their “housing manager we think just might be a little crazy.” (And you guys thought I never heard that.)
The two families in my life at that time had come together on that Thanksgiving, very much appreciated each other, and for that I was infinitely thankful. As fun as it was hanging out around the fraternity house, I think there was still a little boy in each of us that appreciated being inside a home with more home-cooked goodies that could possibly be eaten. And I was happy that the home I had grown up in made a good surrogate for the guys who could not make it back to theirs. That holiday helped me learn that it is ok, and usually even a very good thing, to combine families that might otherwise never meet. It might just make for a good story years later.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!