A Thanksgiving Story

by Brent M. Jones

Each Thanksgiving I get excited. Sometimes I think back to 1957 to a very special Thanksgiving day and dinner. My sister was  born that year on Tuesday the 26th of November, two days before the holiday.  My mother and new sister were, of course, still in the hospital and my father, brother, and I had to figure out what to do for a meal on Thanksgiving Day, and I was worried.

This story of that day is one that I have told, over and over again, for the last 60+ years. Looking back at the event this year seems different, and it occurs to me that I have been in a rut. For too long the story has just been focused our special a Thanksgiving day meal. I have been missing the bigger picture. I should have seen how repetitious my story had become.

Oral histories have been a common way families have past on their life stories. My father was one that past not only his own history, but much of his extended families stories this way. He really never could seem to remember that he had told us the stories before. Later in his life I just reached a point where I felt it was important that I listen to him and so I didn't say anything and just listened.

Looking back now I realize that his repetition served to imprint those stories into my memory. So why I have retold the Thanksgiving story of 1957 so many times to my sister is something I really can't explain? 

It was Thanksgiving that year and I learned, after some concern on my part, that a neighbor had invited us guys over for dinner. Even then I wondered why our Aunts, and Uncles or even Grandparents didn't invite us?  Maybe they did, and maybe my dad just thought it would be easier to just go almost next door, rather than across town. I remember worrying about the dinner. At 11 years old I thought having a sister was fine but I have always remembered how much I had looked forward to turkey day.

When the time for the big meal came I remember that we were at the neighbors all siting around the living room table. We waited at the table for what seemed like a long time.  The table didn't seem like the Thanksgiving day dinners I was used to. I figured that when the turkey arrived it would make it all good.  Our neighbor, Mrs Zelner, announced that it was ready and coming. She carried the main course in on a large silver tray with a silver dome cover. I had never seen a large silver serving tray with a cover like this and it seemed exciting She had left the center of the table open with a place to put the special silver tray, and she carefully set it down.

She stood up and I wondered if she would carve the turkey first but she just reached for the silver dome lid. It seemed like she was building up to the big moment, I know I was, and then she lifted the dome. The tray was stacked high and full of hamburgers.

Yes, I was disappointed, and a little shell shocked. The rest of the dinner seems like sort of a blur as I try to recall it. I know I was crushed. Obviously I was so enough to repeat this story over and over, mostly to my sister Trudy over a lot of years. I guess I figured I was passing on my own oral tradition memories to her. I knew I had told her the story before, so I wasn't just retelling it because I couldn't remember. Maybe I have always been trying to get over it. 

Since then, every Thanksgiving dinner has been spent with family.  In the case of my wife's parents those dinners were also spent with a day of football. 

Last year we found ourselves alone in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Each of our now grown children and their spouses had other plans. A member of our church who knew we would be alone invited us over for dinner. What seemed to hit me at that time was how nice it was to have someone do that.  Thinking of others is important and perhaps you notice it more when your on the receiving end.

I realized that so many years ago I had much to be thankful for. A new sister of course, and overlooked at the time was neighbors who wanted to help.