Passover is a very meaningful holiday for Jews. During the seder, the ritual dinner that’s served that evening, the story of bondage by the Egyptians is recounted and thanks are given for their release after a series of plagues are visited upon the slaveholders, culminating in the slaughter of first-born Egyptians and the successful escape via Moses’s parting of the Red Sea.
Thanksgiving has been a meaningful holiday for we “Americans”, first celebrated in 1621 but not officially until 1863, when President Lincoln declared it a national holiday. It was meant to celebrate the good fortune of the original Pilgrims, as well as that of all of us who came to live in this land.
Much as we have learned Christopher Columbus’s “discovery” of America wasn’t exactly as benign and wonderful as we were led to believe (certainly when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s), we now know the generosity of those indigenous people who provided for that first Thanksgiving we now celebrate, was rewarded with hatred and genocide.
I can’t speak for everyone but, as far as I’m concerned, Thanksgiving is now a holiday in which we celebrate the love of family and friendship, as well as remember how deeply racism, nationalism, and white supremacy are rooted in our national identity. In this time of deep despair over the backward direction our nation is heading, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to a history that includes everyone, regardless of ethnicity, national origin, or any other distinguishing characteristic, as well as seek what objective truth there is, absent favoritism, nationalism, and whataboutism.
I hope everyone has – or had – a wonderful holiday, filled with love and generosity of spirit. I also hope everyone remembered – and remembers – we are far from blameless and sometimes we have – and do – stumble on our journey toward a “more perfect union.”
My mother used to make the most delicious banana cream pies. I think I could have eaten a whole one when I was a teenager. One Thanksgiving I was taking one of her pies out to our second refrigerator in the detached garage (we lived on the border of North Hollywood and Sun Valley and the garage abutted the Alley just behind Roscoe Blvd.) and I dropped it.
It was in a Pyrex pie dish and just shattered. I was crushed – heartbroken. There was no way to salvage even one morsel because there was no way to tell where there might be pieces of glass. That was over fifty years ago and I think I’m still suffering over it.
Some carving, some cooking, and the calm before the storm.
Last night’s dinner at the Simi Valley Senior Center, organized by my Rotary Club, and for which I was a co-Chair, was a resounding success. There were a few less people than the past couple of years, but we still fed around 350 – 400 seniors, plus a ton of volunteers. It is so gratifying to see so many people come together to make something happen like this and, truthfully, it is all the Thanksgiving I need.
Today will be a lagniappe; a little something extra; a little more than I need or have any reason to expect.
I have so much to be grateful for. My family and, especially, the two beautiful girls without whom my life would be so much poorer (though I’m having some doubts about the 13 y/o 😉 ). My wife, Linda, who puts up with my volatility, especially since I retired from the job I expected to work at until I dropped dead at my desk. My life after retirement, which is slowly resolving into something considerably different than I thought it would, but that I’m settling into rather comfortably. The wonderful people I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from. My numerous friends, both irl and virtual, whose sharing, comfort, and kindness have kept me from despondency and buoyed my spirits when things weren’t looking all that good, and who have also helped me continue to grow as a human being.
I’m also grateful for the ability to think critically and the strength to seek out the truth and accept its lessons, no matter how challenging or harsh they may be, without losing faith or diminishing the love I feel for the human race and this beautiful world we live in.
Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. Be well, be strong, be faithful to the truth. Much love and respect to you all.
As those of us who “celebrate” Christmas begin the long awaited and incredibly drawn-out windup to the denouement of the shop ’til you drop for Jesus season, we’re beginning to encounter articles about who he was and what kind of man he might have been.
Reading these reminded me of my favorite depiction of The Man, drawn by Fred Berger, which appeared in an article written by the Harvard Divinity School Theologian, Harvey Cox. It was published in the December 1969 issue of Playboy Magazine and was entitled “For Christ’s Sake”.
This picture has stuck in my mind all these years because it was the first time I had seen or read about Jesus as an actual human being, not some poor schmuck hanging from a cross. Given the biblical account of his life I knew about, it made perfect sense to me he was a radical revolutionary. Still does. Today, however, I’m afraid what most people think about when it comes to Christmas is gifting . . . and decorating. I can’t believe how many people are plotzing over getting their decorations up. They don’t want to wait until Thanksgiving is over; they want it NOW! Jesus must be twirling in his grave at about 42K RPM.
I suppose I should have written this prior to the holiday, but it really is a retrospective and, frankly, I hadn’t thought about it much before yesterday’s celebration. Please forgive me. I’m working on developing an editorial calendar. It’s on my to-do list. Maybe next year I’ll be more sophisticated, but this year I’m just me.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday and now another in a long line of them is in the books. It has always been a time of family, but in my case (and surely for many others) the nature of family has changed many times over the years. I’ve now experienced 65 Thanksgiving dinners. Actually, when I was younger we used to eat around 3:00 and by 6:00, when hunger returned to my growing body, I would frequently return to the table for a large second helping, but I’m not including those in the meal count; just the years.
Remaining, Yet Partial Memories
Of course, I don’t remember most of these dinners, though small portions (unlike my plate) do remain, considerably diffused by time and intervening circumstance. When I was a young boy there were dinners that included cousins, friends, and sometimes distant family, many of whom were my age and with whom I would play catch or, later on, watch football. As a young man, I recall several years when the meal was dominated by highly contentious political arguments over Vietnam, Israel/Palestine, and general economic theory. My father and I did not see eye-to-eye on many of the prevailing issues of the day and the dinner table was frequently where these differences came to a head, sometimes resulting in someone leaving the room . . . usually the old man.
Yesterday was the first time in a few years both my brother and sister were out of town and, coupled with the absence of my parents (both of whom are amolderin’ in the grave), I had no immediate family with which to spend the holiday. This also had a salutary effect, as it allowed my wife, children, and me to spend the day with her family with a total absence of guilt or argument over which location would be best. In the past, we have spent the day with one side and the evening with another. I like staying in one place best.
Holiday Exceptionalism Lost
The biggest thing that’s changed for me is the really special feeling of the day is no longer there. Don’t get me wrong. I still love the holiday and always enjoy being with family. Nevertheless, after all these years the excitement has worn off and, even worse, the food (which once was so special) has succumbed to a level of scrutiny I never brought to the table before. I’m wondering if this isn’t related to my being an older father of two young children, both of whom require lots of attention and neither of whom yet appreciate the wonders of a full Thanksgiving meal. Maybe I’m just jaded. By the way, my love of Pumpkin Pie does not seem to have diminished, so there’s something to be thankful for!
What It’s Really About
I’m reasonably certain what has happened is I now try to think of each and every day as one for which to give thanks. Since I am no longer religious, and have neither that type of community nor prayer to remind me of the blessings I receive, I make a conscious effort to do it in other ways. One of those is when I stare out at the night sky, which I do frequently, and contemplate how lucky I am to be here and, even better, to be conscious of being here. Thinking about the virtual infinity of the universe, it’s vast emptiness and tremendous violence, its humbling grandeur and beauty, I am always appreciative of the planet I live on and the amazing luck of the draw that I’m here and know it.
I’m also thankful I was born into a reasonably intact family, in a country as developed as the United States (regardless of the problems we have been, and are now, experiencing) and that I have lived a very interesting, exciting, and full life filled with challenges, setbacks, and triumphs. Thanksgiving tends to pale in comparison and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. How was your Thanksgiving?
Since my retirement from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne in 2010, I have spent quite a bit of energy on developing work as a social media marketer for small business, a business manager for an AI software development firm, and as an editor/proofreader for a number of business books and a couple of novels, as well as a two-year return engagement at Rocketdyne from 2015 to 2017.
I have decided to stop actively pursuing business in these fields and am now positioning myself to be a writer. I have done quite a bit of writing over the years, but I’ve never really attempted to make any money at it; at least not specifically. I’m starting out with a couple of memoirs and, currently, I’m studying the craft, creating a detailed outline and timeline, and honing my skills as a storyteller. Pretty sure I’ll be writing some fiction as well.
The views expressed herein are those of the author. Any opinions regarding the value or worth of particular business processes, tools, or procedures, whether at his former place of employment, at a current client's enterprise, or in general, are his responsibility alone.