Tag Archives: immigrants

Your annual Thanksgiving guilt trip

Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Faithful Reader. I don’t have any particular plans for the day, but pity me not. My brothers and their families will be gathering here at Blithering Heights for a feast on Saturday. Once again I shall test myself against the wily domestic turkey, to learn which of us is the better man.

I may post over the long weekend. Or I may not.

I have several things to say about Thanksgiving, and they don’t all hang together terribly well. But when has that ever stopped me?

For some reason I’ve been thinking today about the old people of my childhood. Not merely my parents. Not even my grandparents (who are much missed, one and all). I’m thinking of the really old people I met in church as a child, incredibly tall people (from my perspective) who dressed in a formal manner, moved slowly, spoke with accents, and seemed possessed of the wisdom of the ages.

And in a way they were.

Those were people who grew up in a world full of Civil War veterans. They clearly remembered the Spanish-American War, and high buttoned shoes, and gentlemen in derbies and handlebar mustaches. They remembered a time when you measured distance (to loosely quote C.S. Lewis) by the time it took to walk from one place to another (or at least the time it took to go in a wagon or buggy).

Some of them were immigrants. They remembered what it meant to come to a country where it didn’t matter what class you were born in, or what your father had done for a living. In America, you could be anything you wanted to be!

They remembered times of being genuinely uncertain whether the summer’s food would get you through the winter. They remembered prairie fires, and locust clouds, and diphtheria epidemics.

They remembered times when things to read were hard to come by. When you got your hands on a book, or a magazine or a newspaper, you read it front to back and then read it again. And then thought about it. Because it might be a while before you got anything more to read.

They were probably all racists, by our contemporary standards. They thought going to theaters and dancing were mortal sins. They thought America started going downhill when we ended Prohibition.

But all in all, I think they were better people than we are. They’d experienced life in a skin-to-skin, scratchy, smelly, painful manner from which we’re far removed today. They knew how to be thankful, because they’d lived with genuine want.

I miss them. I wish they were here to celebrate Thanksgiving with us; to influence us to be quieter, more reverent, more grateful.

Unfortunately, they’re gone.

All you’ve got to bring you down today is me.

And if that’s not something to be thankful for, I don’t know what is.