WOSTER: It takes time to be thankful
Earlier this month I’d considered going into my annual rant about how Thanksgiving is getting to be the overlooked holiday.
You know the supporting arguments for my thesis: We rush from Labor Day to Christmas with barely a speed bump at Thanksgiving slowing our messaging and public displays. The Christmas lights are out before Thanksgiving week, much less Thanksgiving Day. This year, in some places, Christmas decorations were out before Veterans Day, and that really is pushing things.
It wasn’t always so, I like to remember. One of my favorite childhood memories is of a Thanksgiving visit to Uncle George’s place in Kansas City. The Christmas lights and decorations didn’t go up until after we’d taken a good, long time to give thanks for our many blessings.
Now, it must be said that at Uncle George’s place, with five of Henry and Marie Woster’s kids and five of George and Josephine Woster’s kids, we also had a good, long time to yell and fight and get our feelings hurt and get our hands slapped and get acquainted with the texture of the plaster on the wall in the corner of the living room where we were sent to consider our behavior and our manners now and then.
But, as I said, we also had a good, long time to give thanks for our many blessings. Being together for that important holiday was one of those blessings. I’m sure — although a child didn’t ask such things in those days — that when we drove away for the long trip back to the farm near Reliance at the end of the weekend in Kansas City, my mother and dad were both somewhat relieved to be on the backside of the visit. George and Jo probably were, as well, although when we pulled into their driveway at the start of the visit, Jo always hollered, “South Dakota is here,” and when we backed out of the driveway at the end of the visit, the whole Kansas City family was waving and smiling, and Uncle George sometimes had his false teeth in, too, so you know it was kind of a big deal that we made the trip.
In those days, Thanksgiving ended before Christmas began.
The Kansas City visits would have been in the early 1950s, I’m thinking. I was five, six or seven years old. But I was a college freshman in Omaha in 1962, and it seems to me Thanksgiving still had full membership in the holidays’ club at that time. I’m thinking that because I remember when Brandeis department store in downtown Omaha — maybe the biggest single store I’d seen in my life up to that point. They had some great decorations for Christmas, but when a couple of buddies talked me into walking downtown from campus to shop at Brandeis just before Thanksgiving break, they weren’t displaying their Christmas goods — not in the shoe repair section in the basement or the men’s balcony on the main floor or in any of the sections on up for the eight or nine floors that made up Brandeis at the time.
(If I’m wrong, and Brandeis didn’t have nine floors, chalk it up to a Reliance kid standing out on the corner of the street gawking at the looming, block-square store and trying to calculate whether it would hold more wheat than Shanard’s Elevator back home.)
I have rather strong feelings about rushing the Thanksgiving season. Maybe you can tell.
But I’ve decided it does no good to rant about it. Things seem to have changed in the years since I was young and Christmas followed Thanksgiving at a leisurely pace and at a decent interval. A person can’t unring a bell, and maybe it’s impossible to turn back the clock on the way the holidays are messaged and marketed. It isn’t worth fretting myself into a state (as my mother used to advise us kids, even though she was the expert at fretting herself into a state).
It probably doesn’t matter, anyway, except for this: I have so very many things for which to be thankful, it takes a huge, long holiday just to name them all.