Meditating, in the melancholy age of COVID, on Thanksgivings past

Jim Redwine

For thousands of years humans of almost every culture have celebrated that blissful but too short period between the end of the hard work of growing and harvesting foodstuffs and the beginning of the long gray period of rationing them out until spring. These events of thanksgiving are usually scheduled about the time of the autumnal equinox.

In America, our Thanksgiving holiday is traced back to the autumn of 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The small group of English immigrants that meant to reach what would later be called New York was trying to survive mainly on faith in the unfamiliar environment of their adopted home. However, they found the generosity of the Native Americans of more direct benefit. The few remaining descendants of the once numerous Wampanoag tribe might wonder if their ancestors' kindness is an example of the “No good deed goes unpunished” cautionary tale.

Regardless, Peg and I gratefully acknowledge the end of the grass mowing, yard and garden maintenance season and the short respite before the chores of cutting up downed limbs for the winter can no longer be ignored. And our shared, competing memories of Thanksgivings past help assuage the melancholia of this 2020 year spent with the angst brought on by ’Ole 19 and the presidential election.

For example, I was regaling Peg with my joyous male experiences on a typical Thanksgiving Day. The morning would be spent with my two brothers, our father and maybe some uncles hunting out in the crisp autumn air. If we did not bag any quail for the women folk to clean and add to the Thanksgiving dinner, we would while away the time target shooting until the first football game came on TV. Except for the occasional hapless quail everyone had a grand time.

Then we would wend our way back home where Mom, my sister, and often some aunts and Grandmother would rustle up homemade biscuits and gravy as we of the testosterone persuasion would arrange ourselves near a television. Sometimes we boys would eschew watching football and have a pickup game of our own in the yard until Mom called us for the Thanksgiving meal around two or three in the afternoon.

Once dinner was over, the men would graciously help the women by leaving the table so that the dishes could be cleared and cleaned. We were thoughtful in those halcyon days. After an hour or two the men would cease their pursuits of tobacco and football so the ladies could serve us dessert; pumpkin pie was de rigueur.

In those years before Trump vs. Biden, the issues were more basic and parochial. What really mattered then was whether the dressing should or should not contain oysters? Should the brownies include pecans? What do you do with the giblets? And every now and then someone would complain that the price of gasoline had risen to almost 50 cents per gallon and that our favorite football team’s coach should ask our family for advice.

Now those are some of my pleasant reflections on the joys of Thanksgivings past. Peg and my sister, Janie, on the other hand seem rather prickly about those blessings of days gone by.

James (Jim) M. Redwine was born in Pawhuska, Osage County, Oklahoma. He is a graduate of Pawhuska High School, Indiana University, I.U. School of Law, the Indiana Graduate Judges College and the National Judicial College. He lives at JPeg Osage Ranch in rural Osage County, Oklahoma with his wife, Peg. Jim and Peg have three grown children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.