Growing up in my house, Thanksgiving was roundly understood to be a national holiday, but a goyische holiday nonetheless. Like the very confusing Halloween that precedes it by a few weeks, it was something we "observed" yet rarely participated in. That is until about 1973 when one of our former boarders, a candy chemist from Pakistan, sent us a frozen 40lb turkey by train.
See, my dad was the director of foreign student relations for Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, and my mom taught English as a foreign language for ESL. We also took in some of these students as boarders, which exposed me to a damn sight wider spectrum of folks that most Oklahoma Public School kids get to meet. As surrogate "Americans" my mom felt the need to play up the typically "American" holidays for our guests and their friends so they wouldn't be lonely and confused when the whole shut down for Easter (yet another confusing mix of Pagan and Christian rites I never got a good handle for either.) One of these kids who passed through our house made it to a good paying gig as a quality control chemist at the Ferrara Pan candy company of Chicago. I could go on for hours about Ferrra Pan, but suffice it to say the invented Boston Baked Beans and the concept of eating candy in a theater. As a perk at his gig there, he was given a monster turkey every Thanksgiving. Great news, but he's a Hindu and bird flesh, no matter how traditional, was out of the question for him.
Rather than decline the gift of his bosses, he instead remembered my family's attempts to acclimate him to American culture. After contacting my dad, he then thoughtfully sent it along to us via Amtrak freight, along with a note that we should continue our own family tradition of presenting Thanksgiving to "strangers." Over the years we presented what was essentially an American Passover, ritually explaining every little detail of the Thanksgiving table and menu. We fed Pakistani’s, Bangladeshi's, and Somali's in Stillwater. And when we moved to Norman in 1976 we kept it up, feeding recently expulsed Iranian Jews and Bahaii's, Japanese football players and Mexican aristocrats. As well as the saddest Russian exp-pat I've ever met who came to OU to teach meteorology and stayed drunk and melancholy the whole day.
It was a tradition that continued at my house until my father's untimely passing in 1982. After that, it was strictly Turkey loaf, canned cranberry sauce, hillbilly souris and trailer park mishegoss at my house. As soon as I could split, I did and I haven't looked back.
Now like a true blue nearly fully assimilated trailer park Jew that I am, I have always taken out this next to last weekend of November to be thankful in one way or another. For many years I was a guest of my pal Machelle and her Wiccan buddies, dining outside enjoying the entrance of Fall. After that I would drop in on Andrew Halbreich's famed jam session-feasts. Now that I have a relative in the neighborhood, of late I've spent the day with my cousin Jason and his family, which is probably where I'll be next week as well.
It's been a pretty damn terrible year actually, only financially however, and truthfully I had no idea how I was gonna make it all line up. However, somebody out there, maybe somebody reading this, has been working behind the scenes to help me and my wife out. It has made the difference for us, no foolin', between making the ends meet and not.
As I don't know who you are, I cannot thank you personally. But I will promise you this. Your kindness to me and my wife has illustrated to us just how important our relationships with our friends and community are. On a personal level It gives me the strength to focus on the continuing effort to fight the negative impulses that folks, myself included, too often give in to and it redoubles my commitment to the struggle to creating positivism and goodness in the world. I am more thankful now than ever before.
And thanks for that, most of all.