Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

A Day for Relaxed, Serious Reflection

Thanksgiving is an annual ritual celebrating family. It is a symbol of a land of bounty. It also should be a day of relaxed, but serious reflection.

Groaning TableWhile many families and groups of friends gather around groaning tables full of traditional favorites, others stare at bare cabinets and wonder how to scrounge together a meal. Homeless people will crowd into soup kitchens. People addicted to drugs or alcohol may be too stoned to know it is Thanksgiving, too often leaving children to forage for themselves.

A growing number of people see Thanksgiving as a showcase for food grown organically, without chemicals, a trend that transcends Left Coast foodies and penetrates deeply into the nation’s red-state core. Family farm owners are looking to produce quality food, not just food in quantity.

People who recently emigrated treat their Thanksgiving feast as a tribute to America. Marie Myung-Ok Lee, the daughter of Korean immigrants, wrote in The New York Times that eating turkey on Thanksgiving seemed forced when she was a child. Later, she realized it was her parent’s tribute to a country and a town on the freezing edge of America that embraced her father, a physician willing to brave the cold to care for its townspeople. Eating turkey became a way to say, “We’re Americans.”

food-waste1After post-feast naps and football games, people will get round to cleaning up. Pounds of uneaten food will be churned in garbage disposals, tossed into the trash or, in some cases, put in compost bins. The shameful sight of lonely leftovers has prompted some people to set up community refrigerators where excess food – from parties, family dinners, grocery stores and even farms – can be placed and chosen by the less fortunate to fill their plates. The Taste the Waste movement has picked up steam in Germany and in other places that embrace the sharing economy.

Some people face the prospect of an empty chair around their Thanksgiving table. The sorrow for the loss of a loved one can sap the flavor and festivity out of the holiday.

Families with children go to parades, with bands, floats and giant floating turkeys. These are bonding moments between parents and children that leave indelible memories.

Francie_Coton_Tulear_06.jpg_w450The more sedate crowd tunes into the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which puts all sorts of pooches through their paces under the close scrutiny of judges and the utter delight of a growing national TV audience. This year’s show features the debut of the Coton de Tuléar, fluffy bundles of hypoallergenic hair that can make a heart melt. At least our Coton does.

In a world full of problems and unthinkable acts, Thanksgiving is a time to reflect back on gentler times. It is a time to express thanks, show love and enjoy family and friends, whether one person or a roomful. It is the kind of day when even a turkey can receive a pardon.

Unfortunately, it is the day before Black Friday when everything good about Thanksgiving gives way to lines, harried looks and phony sales.

Make your Thanksgiving happy – and as long as you can.



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