The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Thanksgiving: 'to be thankful, that would suffice.'


December 2, 2020

The observance of Thanksgiving Day felt appropriately simple to me this year.

I write this, however, with the caveat that I cooked nothing for the turkey dinner. Those who devoted hours to their bird and/or its tabletop companions may have seen their mileage vary in the simplicity department.

So did, perhaps, others who tangled with technology to expand their gathering virtually, relying on Zoom, FaceTime, Skype and other apps to videostream loved ones from afar into their gathering. A blessing when they behave, these digital connection tools are also a curse (or at least get cured at) when they do not.

“It’s not the same, but we are so thankful that the virus hasn’t impacted our loved ones almost a year into this mess,” one man told me.

My heaviest task from a year prior melted from the realm of possibility in the days leading up to the holiday. Literally. Without the snow cover of a year ago — just the odd patches — there would be no hauling three children in their sled to the high school football field for some semblance of a “Turkey Bowl” game of pigskin.

Instead, they walked themselves. Each on their own two legs. They all look bigger and heavier than they did a year ago, so fine by me.

Once we were there, we appreciated the opportunity for Turkey Bowl II to evolve from Turkey Bowl I. With only enough of us for “two-man” football on our own, Ronnie Simpson and his sons joined our crew for a “four-man” game — of sorts — this time around. The rules of the game, however, continue to escape the youngest players. The longest runs are in the wrong direction. Would-be blockers are a stumbling block to their teammates when they do get headed the right way. “Downs” are just too difficult a concept.

In short order, the best course of action, we learned, was to emphasize a 20-yard dash drill. All anyone really wanted to do is just run anyway. Like the conclusion of almost every sports season for the teams I’ve been a part of or followed, I found myself whispering, “Maybe next year …”

Maybe at Turkey Bowl III, we can scrounge up a full compliment of six to a side and a 6-year-old will better grasp how to get 6 points. Even if not, just tossing around a football feels right on Thanksgiving afternoon.

We had to call the game on account of the importance of attending to a higher level of tradition: food.

Our family had a meal to attend at the Hoffmans’ house and the Simpsons had delicious sweet potato pies to deliver around town.

We were greeted with a little something for everyone: jalapeño-stuffed olives and garlic parmesan rolls for the more adventurous, vegetables, ranch dip, black olives and buttered rolls for the more conventionally-oriented.

Chase deep-fried up a fine turkey (a style I had yet to try) and all the sides that I firmly believe need to be present for a true Thanksgiving meal were present: mashed potatoes, candied yams, stuffing, gravy, and just as I requested; cranberry sauce in the form of the can it came in, just like my grandma used to make (or at least take the can opener to … ). Also, green bean casserole, which other people believe needs to be present for a true Thanksgiving meal. To apply a fine church term to the item, I view the latter as merely adiaphora.

After the third or fourth plate, I found more to be grateful for, in the form of the thorough roasting of the hapless Dallas Cowboys before a national audience.

The laughs that accompany a diversion like Trivial Pursuit rounded out the evening. In the end, even in a year as strange as this one, family and friends framed the celebration. No different than in any year less challenging than 2020. Yet maybe this time around, more necessary, more welcome, more appreciated.

“If a man had no more to do with God than to be thankful,” the medieval German theologian Meister Eckhart preached, “that would suffice.”


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