Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Colin McNickle
|
Posted: Nov 22, 2016 8:30 AM
Thoughts on Thanksgiving

A great pleasure of childhood Thanksgivings was repairing to paternal grandfather Pop’s basement in Martins Ferry, Ohio, to dig out his classic 1937 Philco console radio, replete with several shortwave bands.

Model 610 sold 48,200 units, manufacturing records show. It listed for the princely sum of $59.95 (about $1,000 in 2015 dollars). What Pop paid for it at Rudner’s Furniture remains a mystery. But as it was loaded for its trip to Pittsburgh more than three decades ago (after Pop’s death, Granny said he wanted me to have it), Granny said he bought it just before Thanksgiving because not one but two turkeys were included.

Something tells me it was Granny who wanted the free turkeys.

With a twist of the power knob, the round dial would illuminate scores of international settings, prompting wide eyes of wonderment in a little boy whose belly was full of turkey, mashed potatoes and fresh green beans.

As the radio tubes hummed to life, nimble fingers dialed in far-away places to the delight of even wider ears. Nearly 50 years later, the old radio still works. But these days the visual and aural delights are being replicated  with a high-definition Wi-Fi tuner. Its LED digital scanner illuminates the darkened dining room as it automatically searches for signals far and near.

And it’s darn near overwhelming, what with its 50,000-station menu. As of this writing, only 47,329 stations to go.

The all-Beatles and all-Christmas stations have been among the early favorites. But so, too, are the quaint ‘casts from “back home” in the rural southwest of Ireland, some in Gaelic.

And from around the world, voices fly, instilling memory-filled Thanksgiving twinkles in the eye.

It wasn’t quite over the river and through the wood to grandfather’s house we went in the 1960s. But anticipating our arrival at Granny and Pop’s modest Ohio abode was every bit worthy of the Lydia Maria Child poem later set to music (but seldom heard these days).

Enroute in the ‘63 Ford Falcon station wagon sleigh, brother Shannon and I would debate, quite intellectually, mind you, whether stretching our stomachs with food or fasting the day before would allow us to eat more.

Upon arrival, the loud refrains of the closing moments of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade could be heard on the TV, rattling through the living room windows.

Then, the moment of moments arrived: The front door would open and that instantly intoxicating first wave of a slow-roasted turkey, just carved on the stove top, would waft over us.

Surely that turkey called us by name, beckoning little boys to sample pieces of crisp skin, moist turkey dragged ever so slowly through the pan drippings and melt-in-our mouths stuffing.

But in short order, we were shooed away: It was time for Granny to hand-whip the butter- and cream-lathered potatoes. The flapping underside of her arm as she did so was the stuff of legend; keeping a safe distance was wise to avoid injury.

Alas, Thanksgiving dinner was anti-climactic. For the prelude to thanks was more than three-quarters the fun.

As wonderful as it is these days to cook Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends, filling the house with unbelievable aromas and unending laughter, the day begins quite early and quite pleasantly alone but in just-as-special fashion.

There is a wonderful sense of serenity rising with the setting moon, pouring a cup of robust coffee, setting a low fire in the fireplace and listening to the first Christmas music of the season as the Prepping for the Feast  commences.

There are vegetables to be chopped, stuffing to be mixed, wine gravy to be reduced (again) and green beans to be cleaned.

Soon the first subtle hues of the new sun will announce themselves out the kitchen window. The deer will emerge from the tree line, tails flitting as they graze high and low. An early cardinal will find the fresh suet cake in the caged feeder; a squirrel will challenge ownership

The early walkers soon are out. Their chatter is of anticipation. Perhaps it’s about a son or a daughter coming home from college. Or about the first visit of a new grandchild. Or more important things.

“You did remember the wine?” one couple says to each other at the same time -- but in hushed tones fearing someone might hear of their crime.  

Possibly forgotten dinner wine aside, and at least for now, all is right with the world -- this moment, this dawn before Thanksgiving, that is every bit as special as the dusk before Christmas to come in one short month.