Giving thanks, past and present

"Freedom from Want," (detail). Artist: Norman Rockwell, cover image for Saturday Evening Post. Photo: National Archives

“Freedom from Want,” (detail). Artist: Norman Rockwell, cover image for Saturday Evening Post. Photo: National Archives

Grandmother’s house was over the river (the Susquehanna) and through the woods (of the Southern Tier), and to it we would go all the years of my growing up at Thanksgiving time. Family plus dog rattling along in whatever Corvair or Rambler or Pontiac wagon had last caught my father’s eye on the dealer’s lot. One year it was a Borgward Isabella. Don’t ask.

The dining room table would have all its leaves in, with a card table stuck on the end to accommodate the youngest kids, those most likely to interrupt grown-up talk and make a mess of the good tablecloth. Me, for example.

The same collection of aunts, uncles, parents, squabbling siblings, cousins, in-laws, and kin of more obscure connection would appear – men to the living room to gas about work, politics and sports, women to the kitchen for all the heavy lifting, and kids to the basement where a regulation pool table held pride of place.

This was a gathering of solid, respectable people – like the mid-20th century brick house that my grandparents built after WW2 – except, perhaps, for the uncle who addressed all the girls as “Firecracker” and drank a little more than Pennsylvania Presbyterians might like to see.

One would have to visit the shady hill above town to see them all now, except in memory. And the world of certainty, security and conventional expectations they built has passed away as well.

It doesn’t do to dwell overmuch on the past. The light of nostalgia obscures the darkness, the slaughter and terror of war, the grinding poverty of the Great Depression, the injustices papered over with tradition, which gave rise to their choices.

Thanksgiving is the time to give thanks for what we have been given now. I open to floor to suggestions. . .


9 Comments on “Giving thanks, past and present”

  1. Peter Klein says:

    Very different for me but then much older than you.
    Grandma’s house was within a mile of the Detroit river. Her house and grandpa’s was built before the depression and wasn’t lost because of the depression because grandpa always made a good living as a barber with his own shop that he walked the mile to and from six days a week.
    Never took dogs any where. They stayed home.
    I’m very thankful for having survived the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 20’s thus far but don’t expect to survive the 21’s.
    Thankful for wife, children and grandchildren. Thankful for grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Very thankful I never was shipped to Vietnam.
    Very sad that so many Americans don’t know much of anything about their country or its history and actually appear to be too stupid to realize how fortunate they are to live here.

  2. Bill says:

    Certainly give thanks for what we can now count as our blessings, but we should also remember those people and times who enabled us to enjoy the bounty of today.

  3. Rosella Todd Valentine says:

    Hi, Dale!

    As a North Country native, I remember many wonderful family Thanksgiving dinners either at our childhood home in DePeyster or at my Aunt Ruth’s home on the Rock Island Road in Gouverneur. So, your memories of Thanksgivings at your grandmother’s in the Southern Tier brought back fond memories.

    Coincidentally, my husband and I will be flying from Central Florida to the Binghamton area this year for my sister, Janette’s, big family Thanksgiving in Owego, NY. As with all my family’s gatherings, it promises to be big, noisy, and filled with lots of good food, reminiscing, and fun.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family…..and, thanks for the memories!


  4. David Duff says:

    Let’s give peace a chance. In our country we have a whole generation approaching voting age who haven’t experienced that, yet.

  5. Every Thanksgiving we went over the river (the Susquehanna) and through the woods (in the Southern Tier) on the two lane Route 17 to Little Valley. Many a scary snowy trips.

  6. Belle says:

    Ahh, I give thanks to the person who invented pantyhose. I also appreciate cars that are WAY more reliable than they used to be, the availability of info via internet (though that’s a double-edged sword), crazy family members (I mean that in a good way), fire to keep warm, food from the garden, food from the supermarket, talking to strangers (who become less strange once you talk to them), trees, dead skunks (! why not?!), consciousness — whatever it really is.

    My childhood Thanksgivings were spent at Aunt Peg’s house in Brentwood on Long Island. Sounds a lot like Dales’!

  7. Rosalie says:

    I am thankful for Dale’s posts such as this one, which bring back warm memories for me too. I am also thankful that the world is moving ahead with confronting climate change, although sadly without the US government, and that solar energy and electric cars are now unstoppable.

  8. Vernice Church says:

    Thankful for the strength of family ties, memories like Dale’s, freedom, plenty to eat, a warm safe house. Wishing all of this was available to more people on this earth.

  9. Robin McClellan says:

    “If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’ it will be enough.” Meister Eckhart

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