Maine, in the winter, is a scary place. It’s cold, dark and dreary…for months on end. Maybe that’s why I so love a flower and a butterfly. When they appear you know winter is behind you. No weatherman needed.
After the gray of the long winter, the colors come alive and you learn not to take for granted the golden glow of the sun, the green of the grass and the blue of the sky. I can’t describe it but it’s pure beauty. A yearly resurrection. When that last snow melts away and the warmth of the sun touches your face, it’s just contentment, nothing but contentment. You lived to tell the tale of another winter past.
This is also how I feel about Thanksgiving. Just pure contentment. Watch this short clip. See the look in Woodstock’s eyes after the feast. You can feel it, no? The satisfaction. The ecstasy of all being right in the world, even if it’s only for a tiny moment of time. After the Thanksgiving feast, the world is perfect. It’s such a wonderful feeling. I imagine Heaven will be like this. Contentment, always. Hallelujah!
I always wondered why I love Thanksgiving so much. I mean there are plenty of other Holidays with food, family, football, etc. But why Thanksgiving? It occurred to me today that Thanksgiving was the one day when I was growing up there seemed to be peace and warmth in my household. Let me explain.
Every Thanksgiving morning Portland High School and Deering High School would meet for the annual Turkey Bowl game. It’s a tradition going back well over 100 years. On a couple occasions when I was really young, before I was even 10 years old, my dad would take me to the game. We’d take the boat into Portland and walk to the stadium which was quite a hike for a young kid. Remember too, this is Maine, late November, in the morning. So not only was it a long walk, it was COLD!
I hated that walk. But when we got to the stadium it was fantastic. All these people in their blue for Portland or purple for Deering. The marching bands, the cheerleaders, the “big kids” who were in high school hanging out. Everyone seemed so cool to me. We’d always get a program and I’d devour that thing, reading about the history of the rivalry, the scores from previous years, the players etc. One year my dad even bought me a Portland Bulldogs beanie with a blue and white pom pom on the top. I loved that hat!
The picture below was from the 1977 game. Notice the P, for Portland, inside the football? I used to draw that all over my notebooks in school along with other football logos, the Redskins, the Raiders etc. I could never draw Pat the Patriot though. Never had a talent for art, other than a couple football team logos.
Doesn’t that picture just scream America? Muddy uniforms, old Larry Csonka-style helmets, linemen on the ground. Football on grass, in the elements, is the best sport there is. Put it on turf, in a dome though and it’s just not the same game.
Towards the end of the third quarter the cold would begin to wear on me and I’d get antsy to leave. I knew we had a long hike to the wharf to catch the boat back to Peaks, probably the noon run, if memory serves. If you missed the noon boat, you’d have to wait until 2:15 or something for the next one. So we’d hustle back to the wharf to make sure we caught the noon boat.
That walk to the wharf was agony I must say. The wind, the cold, the distance and that we had to move quite fast in order to make the boat. I HATED that walk. Sadly, once we were on the boat we weren’t done yet. We’d still have to walk another half mile or so from the wharf to our house on Peaks. UGH! It would be well worth it though.
As you were coming up Central Ave. past St. Christopher’s Church on the right and the DayCare Center on the left, the anticipation of what was waiting for you would build. Heat, first off, and then as much food as you could possibly eat, with pies, ice cream, whipped cream! Oh man. So you’d start moving faster to make it home. As you approached the Peterson’s yellow house next to our house, you couldn’t help but run the rest of the way.
You sprinted through the front yard, your eyes focused on nothing but that 4 inch thick wooden front door with the oval window in the middle. Misery and bliss were separated by nothing but a 4 inch thick door and the sooner you got through it the sooner the cold and hunger would be sent packing.
I’d burst through that door, my dog, Doggy, jumping on me so excited that I made it home. Immediately the warmth and smell of my mom’s food cooking in the oven grabbed hold of me and shook the chill out. For the rest of the day, at least, the cold was a thing of the past. Then the smell. The feast was coming. Amazing.
By this time in my life we finally had a TV too. A small 10 inch black and white like the picture below. Having a TV on Thanksgiving meant having football to watch. For someone who was as much a football fan as I was back then, nothing made me happier.
So there I was, in the warmth of our front room watching Walter Payton and the Chicago Bears while waiting for the feast of all feasts to be served. To say this was a great day would be a huge understatement. By the way, here are the results of the 1977 Thanksgiving Day games. Notice anything odd?
Yup, no Cowboys. Weird, huh? No worries, the Cowboys returned to Thanksgiving the following year and all these years later still play on Thanksgiving. In fact they’re playing the Giants as I write this. They are America’s Team, after all…:)
So what does this have to do with anything? Well I think it goes back to why I love Thanksgiving so much. You end the day warm, full and content. In a world of chaos Thanksgiving always just provided some sense of order. Whatever stress there is seems to take a leave of absence on Thanksgiving. At least for that day and that does make me thankful. Thankful for God’s bounty He provides. Thankful for the luxury we have to eat until we fall asleep and then eat some more. But thankful for a day of no family conflicts, no drama, just relaxation and enjoying each other’s company.
I didn’t have much of that growing up. I imagine many of you didn’t either. That Thanksgiving always seemed to provide stability unlike any other day of the year made a huge impact on me, one that that carries with me through this day. Christmas certainly didn’t. My birthday didn’t. Halloween was okay. But Thanksgiving…nothing compares to it.
Lastly, one of the best traditions of all times is the Wall St. Journal Thanksgiving day editorials, the same they’ve been publishing for generations.
Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.
We can remind ourselves that for all our social discord we yet remain the longest enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators. Being so, we are the marvel and the mystery of the world, for that enduring liberty is no less a blessing than the abundance of the earth.
I hope you are thankful today. Thankful for a full belly. Thankful for your family. Thankful for being loved by God, most of all. God loves you. Never forget it.