“Thanksgiving is America’s chow-down feast, the one occasion each year when gluttony becomes a patriotic duty.” — Michael Dresser
Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year, a day set aside to give thanks for the blessings in our lives.
The initial Thanksgiving meal occurred in 1621 as a celebration of the harvest. Fifty-three surviving Pilgrims (among them recognized names likes Miles Standish, John Alden and William Bradford, along with colorfully named children Remember Allerton, Love Brewster, Wrestling Brewster, Humility Cooper, Oceanus Hopkins, Desire Minter and Resolved White) celebrated their successful harvest with Wampanoag leader Massasoit and 90 of his men.
“Thanksgiving” was not attached to the fall feast until 1623, in response to receiving a badly needed rainfall.
In 1777, the Continental Congress created Thanksgiving as a nationwide holiday. The exact day of celebration was cemented on the fourth Thursday of November by Congress in 1941. It is now a day of turkey, football, pumpkin pie and gathering with friends and family. It also generally commences the holiday weight gain we all battle starting New Year’s Day.
Sometimes, what we have to be thankful for gets overshadowed by life’s day-to-day events. With our nation having spent the last two years experiencing daily political acrimony, some quiet thanks is a welcome change.
I am thankful this year for the kindness of strangers. On my grandson Miller’s fourth birthday, I took him to The Junction Diner for breakfast. He ate a Mickey Mouse-shaped pancake with whipped cream and a candle on it. His birthday approaching this year, he asked if we could return for “a big pancake.” We did and I explained to Ashley how much Miller had enjoyed his birthday pancake the year before. As his “congratulations-on-being-5-years-old” pancake was delivered, Ashley announced to the crowd that it was Miller’s fifth birthday and asked everyone to join her in singing “Happy Birthday.” Miller was shy, but enjoyed his birthday song and breakfast very much. As we were leaving, a stranger said, “Miller, happy birthday” and handed him a dollar. When we got settled in the car, Miller said, “Pa, people are very nice, aren’t they?” Yes, they are. I am thankful for that reminder to a 5-year-old and me.
I am thankful for Gateway Fellowship’s annual “Day of Hope.” On a fall Saturday, members of our community come together to give care, advice, kindness, love and services to members of our community in need. It is Poulsbo and its people at our best. I am thankful my community is so caring and kind.
I am thankful to share Poulsbo with a family member. My sister-in-law, Lynette, recently took a job at Martha & Mary. Though she has been around Poulsbo frequently, she will now be spending most of her time here. Recently, as I went on and on to Lynette about Poulsbo’s people and history, I was reminded what an interesting place I live in and how proud I am of Little Norway.
In 1985, U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and his wife, Maryann, spent several days here and received the Poulsbo Bar Association’s “Small Town Lawyer Made Good” award. As I was driving them to the airport for their trip back home, Justice Stevens suddenly said, “You lied to Maryann and me about the event. Poulsbo is not a small town.” I was surprised and mentioned that it had a population of about 7,500. Wasn’t that “small?”
“Small towns,” Justice Stevens replied, “are dark, dusty places where every youngster waits anxiously to leave. Poulsbo is not a small town. It is a postcard on the water. Don’t ever forget that.” And I haven’t. I am thankful Lynette will experience this “postcard on the water” as her roots get deeper and deeper in her job and in wonderful Poulsbo.
I am thankful for the positive uses of technology. Recently, I read about a new student in an elementary school. Speaking little English, understanding less, he sat alone, isolated by his newness and his English language deficit. A 10-year-old classmate decided to help him incorporate into his school and his class. Using an internet language translator she was able to write the new student an invitation to sit with her at lunch. He did not eat alone, and now feels part of a larger community thanks to technology.
I am thankful to be humbled and remember we are all Americans together through our national political changes. A couple of weeks ago, my candidate was not elected President. I went to bed sad and disappointed. Then I thought back on the elections of 2008 and 2012, when my candidate did prevail. In those moments of personal joy, I wanted the disappointed voters to give my candidate a chance. Be positive and hopeful. After all, we are — no matter which candidate received our vote — Americans together. Now it was my turn to do the same. I am thankful that even in the most contentious and nasty election in generations, we have a peaceful transition of power.
Finally, I am thankful for the people that America’s annual chow-down feast brings together. Few things instigate more joyous, relaxed conversation and camaraderie than turkey and pumpkin pie shared with family and friends. Whether celebrating a successful harvest, a recent rainfall, or just enjoying the company of 91 local dinner guests.
Copyright Jeff Tolman 2016. All rights reserved.
— Jeff Tolman is a lawyer, a municipal court judge, and a periodic columnist for Kitsap News Group.