Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. As I get older, I think more and more about Thanksgivings past and all the food, laughter, and company we enjoyed from childhood to adulthood. I find myself nostalgic for the holiday of my youth, when I was a kid in my parents’ house, partaking in family traditions passed down for generations. Or the holiday of early adulthood, when my own child was young and learning those same traditions for herself.
Recently, I came upon an old poem that perfectly illustrates this feeling. In honor of the holiday, we’d like to share it with you.
The Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving
by Edgar A. Guest1
It may be I am getting old and like too much to dwell
Upon the days of bygone years, the days I loved so well;
But thinking of them now I wish somehow that I could know
A simple old Thanksgiving Day, like those of long ago,
When all the family gathered round a table richly spread,
With little Jamie at the foot and grandpa at the head,
The youngest of us all to greet the oldest with a smile,
With mother running in and out and laughing all the while.
I like the olden way the best, when relatives were glad
To meet the way they used to do when I was but a lad;
The old home was a rendezvous for all our kith and kin,
And whether living far or near they all came trooping in
With shouts of “Hello, dad!” as they fairly stormed the place
And made a rush for mother, who would stop to wipe her face
Upon her gingham apron before she kissed them all,
Hugging them proudly to her breast, the grownups and the small.
Then laughter rang throughout the home, and, Oh, the jokes they told;
From Boston, Frank brought new ones, but father sprang the old;
All afternoon we chatted, telling what we hoped to do,
The struggles we were making and the hardships we’d gone through;
We gathered round the fireside. How fast the hours would fly-
It seemed before we’d settled down ’twas time to say good-bye.
Those were the glad Thanksgivings, the old-time families knew
When relatives could still be friends and every heart was true.
It’s hard not to miss those Thanksgivings, and easy to dwell on them. It’s like looking at a Norman Rockwell painting and finding yourself feeling sentimental for times that will never quite come again – at least not in the exact same way.
And yet, when I read this poem, and when I started thinking about all those bygone family gatherings, I realized something. Thanksgiving isn’t about reflecting on what was.
It’s about giving thanks for what is.
True, some of the faces I remember gathering around the table will not be there this year, because they’ve moved away or passed away. True, the food may not taste quite the way I remember it, because the ingredients are different or the recipe is different, or because people’s sense of taste changes over time. True, Thanksgiving will never quite be what it used to be. But that’s because it has evolved to be so much more.
These days, there are a host of new faces around my dinner table. New neighbors and friends, nieces and nephews, grandchildren and in-laws. There are new tastes to savor, new dishes to try and enjoy. There will be new jokes I’ve never heard before that will make us laugh much harder than the same joke told for the twentieth time. New stories to tell and hear. New dreams to share and plan for. New traditions to start, that children many decades from now will consider as sacred and special for them as ours are for us.
Yes, Thanksgiving won’t be the same this year. And how thankful I am for that! Because what kind of life would it be if things always stayed the same?
I will always be grateful for the past. But this Thanksgiving, I am especially thankful for the present. Thankful for all we have today. Family and friends, clients and coworkers, dreams done and dreams to come.
When you get right down to it, I’m thankful for Thanksgiving.
Whether old-fashioned or new, may it be the best you’ve ever had.