We all know the story of Thanksgiving. It has been told over and over. The tale is heard from the time we are young until we grow old. Pilgrims come to this new land and the struggles they went through to get here and to make a new life. Their fight to survive and the help from the Indians to grow food, hunt game, and build their places of shelter. Then the time of Thanksgiving, the big feast and celebration. It all happened just as we are told.
And so a new nation evolved, a great nation, a place of freedom. Freedom to worship, freedom to live as we please and where we please. Freedom of speech, freedom to study and become whatever we want to become. Freedom to raise our families, to go on vacations, to work, to participate in our political system. Freedom to wear our hair the way we want and to dress the way we like. Freedom to vote and choose the leaders for our country. Yes, we have lost some of our freedoms, but we are still the greatest and the freest country in the world today. We are the land that most of the world desires. We have the freedom to celebrate the Thanksgiving season and to do so any way we choose.
Thanksgiving is now a national holiday and tradition has been to celebrate with a day of thanksgiving for what we have. We give thanks with family and friends and enjoy a bountiful meal together. Yet in many American households, the holiday has lost much of its original significance. No longer does it carry with it any value of a religious time, where we gather and give thanks for our blessings.
Turkey, a Thanksgiving staple, has become synonymous with the holiday and nearly 90 percent of Americans will enjoy the bird, whether roasted, baked, deep fried, or maybe even microwaved. We enjoy the other traditional foods as well: stuffing, mashed potatoes, noodles, deviled eggs, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Volunteering is now a common Thanksgiving day activity and communities often hold food drives and host free dinners for the less fortunate.
Parades have also been an integral part of the holiday all across the United States. New York City's annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is the largest and most famous, attracting 2 to 3 million spectators along its two-and-a-half mile route and drawing an enormous television audience. It features marching bands, performers, elaborate floats, celebrities, and giant balloons, some shaped like cartoon characters.
Thanksgiving in small communities seems to take on an even greater meaning. We appear to be closer knit together and without the interference of the big city. Life just seems simpler. The thought of a holiday or celebration just kind of lights us up. The excitement of a day off work and school. The thought of all the friends and family getting together at one time, something we look forward to all year long.
Looking back over the years, just at the small communities here in Tyler County, we have seen many changes. Some have been good and some not so good. The landscape has changed, and continues to do so. The oil and gas industry has again invaded our area. It seems like everywhere we look we see change. Change can be good, but when it comes to our heritage and tradition, I say leave it alone. Small community life, there's nothing like it. Granted, it's not for everyone, but nothing is. I feel very fortunate to have grown up here, this little part of the world, this safe zone, where there is little crime and the landscape kind of shields us from the elements. Where there is always someone to turn to, if needed. These are reasons to be thankful, reason to stay at home and enjoy what we have.
My experience throughout the years has been to set this day (Thanksgiving) aside. To give blessings for what I have received and to enjoy the company of family and friends. My tradition began as a young boy in a poor household surrounded by a sister and brothers. Aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents are a fond part of that memory. I remember the home being opened up to anyone that wanted to come in and most of the time friends and neighbors found their way. Grandma and mom would do all of the cooking and we would enjoy the food the entire day, and usually the rest of the week.
Music became a large part of our family gatherings. We would crowd into the small rooms and sing and play together. Sometimes it would go on for hours. Everyone seemed to enjoy the day. There was always enough food for everyone, with seconds whenever you wanted. It seemed as if the day would never end (not that I wanted it to).
There were always two or three places to go and each place had more food, so sometimes that became a problem. As the years went by (and oh how quickly they did) there became even more homes to visit and more food to eat. And less time to do it. You could never make it to all the gatherings, it was impossible. We had all grown up and had families of our own and with that came the in-laws. The fight was on, where do we go first (my house or yours)? Man what a battle! My mother's home still seemed like it was everyone's favorite, but I really did enjoy my mother-in-law's. Both of them were great cooks and always set a big table.
It seems as though the days go by so quickly; time really does fly! With each passing year the holiday appears to lose some of its luster. The glamor is gone, it's not as fun as before. The family starts dwindling, one life passes away and then another and another, on it goes. Who will be next? When mom passed on, our inner circle was broken. With her went part of our spirit. No more would we gather at her house. It was no longer the same. Then a brother was gone and then another. In between a father-in-law and mother-in-law. The burden has now shifted from there to here. (You know what I mean.) It has become our turn, we must continue the tradition. We must now host the big event. We will provide the home, do the cooking, host the meal, clean the house in advance, just so it can get messed up again. The excitement of a great Thanksgiving holiday celebration is back!
Not so fast! Another change is coming, no longer is this great holiday about religion, family, friends, and food. A new shift in our mind set is taking place. Shopping is fast becoming the first thing on our minds. Major retailers are now opening on Thanksgiving Day. It's another break from tradition-a new way, a better plan, "Let's go Shopping", and eat out, instead of fixing the big meal. We can do both at the same time and we won't have the mess! Why can't we see what's happening? We are giving up something much more important than anything we might gain. We lose our time together, we will no longer look forward to that one day when we can gather together as family and friends. It's no longer important because "we must go shopping". We have now lost all perspective of the Thanksgiving Holiday.
Nothing could be better then the company of family and friends. Shopping can never replace the time spent together with the ones you love. No shopping spree, no matter what the bargains or discounts may be. No restaurant food can even start to compare to the home cooking we have come to enjoy and expect on this one day a year celebration. Not even the giant buffets, sure they are delicious and more convenient, but they can't take the place of the family meal.
This is also not a time when you make an appearance just to eat and then hurry up an leave for the mall. Part of going to mom's was the right we had to be there and to stay as long as we wanted. Even if we wanted to take a nap or spend the night. Time together is the most important part of it all. It is the greatest gift we have next to God. Stores should remain closed and families should stay at home. Yes, the times are changing and it appears we are on the short end of the stick. The religion view of Thanksgiving has disappeared and the family, friends, and meal tradition has nearly evaporated-all to give way to the newest Thanksgiving tradition of enjoying (or suffering through) another day of heavy traffic, crowded shopping malls, high gas prices, spending money we don't have, and putting up with sore feet and tired legs. Standing in line at the crowded, high priced restaurant, which has a 45-60 minute wait, just for a steak, baked potato, and tossed salad. Have we lost our minds? Thanksgiving is quickly becoming just another busy shopping day. The flood gates have been opened and only a miracle will be able to close them. The almighty dollar has flexed it's muscle. Where do we go from here? I for one refuse to become a part of it.
There will be food on the table at the Parsons' home on Thanksgiving. There will be music playing and people singing, friends and family visiting. There will be relaxation and stories told, there will be a blessing for the meal. There will be tales told and memories made. Pictures will be taken and the comfort of home will be enjoyed. Praise will be offered for the time together and time past. We will remember our loved ones who have gone on before us. We will talk about our daily lives and listen with interest as each one shares their thoughts and views. We will mention those who couldn't be with us. We will totally enjoy the day. We may even argue and fight, but we will still love one another. This is the meaning of Thanksgiving to me. Yes, the times are changing, but not for me, I refuse to change! I want life to be like it use to be. Paden City, a safe and quiet community full of friends and neighbors. Sistersville, a small respected little town, quite busy with great people, very well knit together with a hometown atmosphere. Middlebourne, a nice small country town that is the county seat, bustling with activity and full of pride. Friendly and the outlying areas, alive and full of the West Virginia spirit of hard work and dedication to all. What a wonderful world.
All of these little communities and all of Tyler County have much to offer. Consequently there is much to give thanks for and many reasons to stay home and celebrate. Each of the communities mentioned have there own uniqueness and history. So this year when someone suggests that you give up your holiday for a day of shopping, just say "No! I'm staying at home and enjoying my day with family and friends and a bountiful meal."
Don't tell me there isn't anything to be thankful for, just count your blessings, name them one by one, count your blessings and see what God has done. And as Louis Armstrong would say, "Oh What A Wonderful World."