Less Thanks

Thanksgiving is the perfect American holiday. It involves no organized religion and doesn’t commemorate any national event. Pretty much a civil feast day, Thanksgiving allows Americans to enjoy our one singular unifying trait – mindless gorging.

Strange how diet gurus quit hibernating and emerge en masse to inform and warn Americans about the perils of overeating on this single day. Really. Setting aside one day of the year for sanctioned mouth-stuffing won’t lard on that much tonnage, will it? A month? Yeah. One day? Please.

Presently in Las Vegas residence, Thanksgiving is one of the few things from old Quarropas I lament. “Old” as in the sense of the people and places who proctored my development. The former are gone, the latter have either been razed or renovated. Even before forsaking the old town lifelong residents like myself starting laying transparencies over what Quarropas had become. From New York City bedroom community to thriving retail hub and corporate center.

Who can ever imagine his or her hometown becoming so bloodless?

And while the mind’s eye can overlay past Quarropas atop its current incarnation, the departed souls who populated prior time and spaces can’t be conjured anew. If lucky, maybe a quip or fraught moment or demonstration of fateful tenderness or generously shared wisdom might be recalled.

But that’s about all. Precious few remain to congregate and every former haunt has changed irrevocably.

I favor Thanksgiving because it lacks forced good spirits or solemnity. Who gets falling down, puke-on-shoes drunk, weep maudlin buckets, or have his/her sincerity slip from earnest into mawkish on Thanksgiving?

If anything, it’s a day when most Americans can just reflect and generally express thankfulness. Isn’t the cornucopia, not turkey or Pilgrims, the occasion’s apt symbol? In our old place it was. Certainly for the older folks. Those who grew up caught in the buzz saw of the Depression.

The era stamped my parents. They imprinted it onto me.

Our consumer society has programed “want” so thoroughly we mistake it for “need.” Unfortunately for successor generations, the people who can readily teach how to distinguish the two are succumbing to their years.

Millennials are the third generation of Americans who’ve known bounty throughout their lives. By missing depravation they don’t know what they’re missing. And should it occur during their lifetimes they’ll lack institutional memories to fall back upon in order to endure the malady. Poor people.

Far more so than all the other holidays Americans celebrate, Thanksgiving insists in congregating with family and friends. Just for the cumulative pleasure of their company.

Christmas has been so commoditized how soon until some clever marketer uses that Christ fellow to pitch wide-screen TVs? Three-day holidays have robbed specific remembrances of their vitality to our essential heritage. Recall that once Memorial (Decoration) and Veterans (Armistice) Days were established to honor those who sacrificed for and served the nation, respectively, not shill mattresses and cars throughout now commemorative weeks.

In Quarropas and the surrounding Northeast, the autumnal blazes had fallen by October and been raked up around Halloween. Before environmental soundness ordered composting them, well-tended fires devoured the russet and orange blankets of leafy green summer. Acrid as the smoke was, smudge pellucid skies as the plumes did, could incipient hibernation have been better heralded?

Before rampant commercialism ruined festive idleness, we esteemed the four-day holiday Thanksgiving birthed. No “Black Friday,” no hordes assaulting stores throughout the weekend for gift purchases. Those four days were an instinctive lull from hectic. Maybe the most intensive activities other than preparing the bird and fixings were attending local high school rivalry games. Framed by bare branches, on canvases of crisper, shorter days, these contests marked the end of the regular football season and signaled winter.

Today the simplicity, the seasonal demarcations of our past, must look hokey to a society evermore on the go, and constantly connected. This society doesn’t exhale. Its trivialities have assumed outsized urgencies.

Bad enough the shopping frenzy Americans are goaded into on Friday after Thanksgiving. Credit must be given to advertisers who’ve transformed a period of thoughtful selections into maniacal impulse spending.

The old buying habits meant something. At least the intent behind the gift did. Lab rats would recognize the new stimuli.

However one saw them, the three days following Thanksgiving were lazy. Rude swarms didn’t pack stores on Friday and Saturday, and certainly none were open on Sundays. It’s this time of the year we should miss the old blue laws. I’ve actually started meeting people young enough who’ve never experienced the “inconvenience” of being unable to browse store aisles on Sunday because the retailer was shut.

Maybe blue laws should be restored. Ours was a more mannered, less mammon society with them. Blue laws helped maintain propriety.

If not for improved communal comportment alone, then to provide stores staffs breathers. Not much of a shopper, I am nonetheless aware of the bigger retailers’ creeping door-opening times. As if before dawn not early enough, some of the more craven merchants insist their cheap plastic things be available to undiscriminating shoppers on Thanksgiving itself. Meaning clerks and stockers must man the floors and shelves. Meaning those same people are denied the holiday’s respite.

These last several decades, hypocrites have blathered plenty about the importance of family. Proclaiming is worthless without practice.

Since we’d commonly set aside Thanksgiving as hours for close associations, why contradict that with such blatant demands and appeals to forsake that time? On one hand, sellers are shortening their employees’ familial hours, and on the other, luring consumers away from their own families. This on a day acknowledging Providence, not promotion.

Rather profane isn’t it?

While I’m saddened that those who shaped me are all gone, part of me is glad none are around to witness the perversion we’ve let Thanksgiving become. Spring and summer days aside, Thanksgiving was the warmest, most comforting day of the year. The cheer wasn’t phony. By exhibit and consumption it manifested generosity of life.

Thanksgiving once served for reflection. We’ve surrendered the one communal day where one’s concerns got shoved to the periphery temporarily.

We should mourn its diminishment.