20 November 2012

i've got plenty to be thankful for

If I could, I would make a quilt out of tradition and sit under it all winter.

This plan is dependent on me being able to quilt, which I can't do, and it's also dependent on being able to take intangible but comforting things and make them into fabric, which sounds like something Rumpelstiltskin would be peddling.

Of course I'm thinking about tradition as we approach Thanksgiving, that very traditional holiday where most of us eat the same thing at the same time, a feat that doesn't happen on many other days.

With other holidays, there's leeway in the menu: some people eat ham at Christmas, for example, while others might go for Christmas goose. My family has never done that, but doesn't it sound like something that would happen in Little Women—if, I guess, they hadn't been so poor and given away their scant Christmas dinner to an even-poorer family so that the girls {and their readers for generations to come} could learn generosity?

The Fourth of July might involve hot dogs or hamburgers or, if you're in Morning Sun, Iowa, with me, pulled pork sandwiches and a lot of potato salad.

Thanksgiving, though: it's hard to mess with Thanksgiving, as evidenced by this conversation with my mom.

Me, the Ever-helpful Daughter: Hey, do you want me to make anything for Thanksgiving this year? I could bring home my recipe book.

Mama, She Who Has Hosted Thanksgiving Forever: No, I think we're all set. Just so you know, though, we aren't having the creamed corn this year.

Me, the Rooted-in-Tradition Daughter: [Long, long pause] What do you mean? I don't understand. We're from Iowa. Isn't there a law that says we have to eat corn?

Mama, Who Probably Should've Mentioned This to Me Earlier: Your aunt wants to bring cauliflower gratin.

Me, the Doubter: Is this because of the drought affecting the corn crop? I just watched that new Ken Burns documentary on PBS about the Dust Bowl, and so I'm in tune with these agricultural disasters. Is there not enough corn to feed us all?

Mama, Who, After Almost 31 Years Should've Figured Out I'm Not Good with Last Minute Change: Of course there's enough corn. We just thought we'd try something new.

Me, Trying to Change the Subject: Speaking of things that are new, FDR's New Deal brought in a lot of change that helped mitigate the effects of the Dust Bowl. Can we talk about major government programs now instead of how you want to step on the face of Thanksgiving tradition? That's like stepping on the face of a pilgrim, fyi.

Oh, I do like my tradition, but the thing is, I also like cauliflower gratin. The Barefoot Contessa has a very good recipe for it that I've made several times, and hey, it involves cheese. Most things are better with either cheese, bacon, or chocolate added to it—sometimes all three {but certainly not in the case of cauliflower}.

This corn-less Thanksgiving will still be Thanksgiving, I know, and I do have plenty to be thankful for—a phrase that makes me think of Bing Crosby and Holiday Inn and another Thanksgiving tradition.

When I was in high school, my friends and I would march {oh, yes, we were band nerds} in the Lighted Holiday Parade on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I have many pictures of me in a band uniform {with very square shoulders: the shoulder pads in that thing were impressive}, wearing a Santa Claus hat, holding my flugle, and getting ready to step off down Jefferson Street playing a jazzy {yet marchable} version of "The Little Drummer Boy."

{And no, I don't plan on going to the work of scanning any of those pictures and then posting them. No need for that to be seen.}

Afterwards, we'd all eat Christmas cookies and watch Holiday Inn at my friend Sara's house. It was the beginning of Christmas, as we'd warm up with hot cocoa and sing along with Bing. It was normal and cozy and the kind of Saturday night activity that band nerds are prone to do.

Perhaps to get over the lack of corn, I should watch Holiday Inn this year. At the very least, I should watch the "I've Got Plenty to Be Thanksful For" clip from the Thanksgiving part of the movie.

You should watch it, too: here's a link.


And bonus connection to talking about FDR and the New Deal earlier in an attempt to change the subject with my mother {it's below the line so you're not required to read this history fact if you don't want to learn something awesome}: You'll see at the beginning of this clip, there's a little cartoon turkey who moves back and forth between two Thursdays in November.

That's because in 1939, FDR moved Thanksgiving to the second-to-last Thursday in November—not the last Thursday as it had been since Abraham Lincoln set it. And as we all know, you do not mess with anything Abraham Lincoln did.

He did it to give more shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas—the country was still pulling out of the Depression, you know, and the more time for shopping, the better. Incidentally, that phrase was also in the running to replace the E Pluribus Unum slogan for America: The more time for shopping, the better.

People got upset. Really upset. That FDR, he thought he could do anything, even change holidays. What was next? Christmas in July?

Since the states also have some power in these United States of ours, some states decided to reject FDR's Thanksgiving Proclamation and can you imagine the confusion? When do you get off work? What if your family was in a different state? What would the pilgrims think?

Seriously, this was a serious issue, and it went on for a couple of years—until Congress passed a law that Thanksgiving would always be the fourth Thursday in November.

I know that our current Congress has really important things to be doing {STOP holding press conferences about how you're looking forward to a bipartisan solution to the fiscal cliff and fix the dang cliff}, but I would appreciate it if they would, at some point soon, pass a law saying that creamed corn will always be served at Iowa Thanksgivings.

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