Whether we gather ‘round the table with those who are near and dear to us, or find ourselves sitting at a diner counter all alone,Thanksgiving Day, as opposed to all the other non-Thanksgiving days of the year, has a certain feel to it.
I remember both kinds, and there was even one other kind I remember — one when my mother wondered what she was going to feed her family, a husband and three daughters, and there was hardly any food in the house at all, let alone fixings for the next day’s Thanksgiving dinner. Being the kind of mother she was, she didn’t make a big deal out of it; our cupboards had been rather empty before. My father, being somewhat of a man with pride and one who never wanted to ask for help, always felt he could take care of his own family, even if his “taking care” meant there would be a delay in being able to buy groceries.
sound like a treat. Little did we know at the time how close we were to not having anything for dinner.
One of the really good things about my father was that as soon as he was able, he went to night school to learn everything he could about television sets — how they worked, what could go wrong with them, and how to fix them — and that became the saving grace for our family. He went into business for himself and became the best in his field,
getting himself known far and wide for his ability and dedication to fix any television, if it were at all possible to fix. People from hundreds of miles away would call and would wait for him to be free rather then take their TV set to the nearest — and usually available — TV repair shop on the very day they first noticed it needed to be fixed.
But before my father could attend night school and learn the trade that would make things better for us, my mother was still hoping that the next time she checked her cupboard for something to make for dinner, especially for the upcoming Thanksgiving Day, that things might magically appear that she somehow missed just minutes ago; but they were still like in the Nursery rhyme, Old Mother Hubbard, and this particular Thanksgiving Day looked to be bleaker than usual.
Can you even imagine the look on my mother’s face when the doorbell rang and she opened the door to find a basket sitting on our doorstep — no person, just a basket — and in the basket was a note atop the contents under a large red napkin bearing the words, “Happy Thanksgiving!”
Yes, it was enough to make her cry. We children thought it was a little strange and a little magical that such a thing showed up the day before Thanksgiving, kind of like a Christmas miracle several weeks early. We helped her put the items in the refrigerator or cupboard, and were happy to see that we’d be having turkey this year, with plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week, judging from the size of it. And whoever left it there, whether the Thanksgiving Fairy
or not, was kind and thoughtful enough to include all the trimmings that any family would like with their “meat and potatoes,” including a beautiful pumpkin pie.
It makes me cry right now to remember that day and the most thoughtful gift we have ever received, but most of all my feelings are stirred to remember how my mother must have felt at that moment to know she’d be able to feed her family such a bountiful meal when just minutes before, her cupboard was bare!
Over the years, I can clearly remember how several of my father’s customers — often very affluent, from our perspective — would give my father things along with paying for his services, things like chairs they “didn’t need,” or clothes for his children that their children, so they said, had outgrown, or books for us to read, and so on. But not all customers were able to be so generous. Many were barely able to pay their TV repair bill, yet my father would never turn them down,
telling my mother that many of them were elderly widows who had nothing but their TVs to keep them company or fill their long, empty hours and days. He would even make house calls to them long after my mother felt his day should be done.
Even though we may sometimes think that others had and still have so much more than we do, we were fortunate enough to learn the value of caring and sharing — the hard way — and those who have (and perhaps have always had) abundance might yet have to learn those important lessons that came to us when we were young: Necessity is the mother of invention; There’s always a way to do with what you have; Where there’s a will, there’s a way; Things could always be worse; Things will get better if you have faith; and God will provide.
We always had a roof over our heads, and something — thanks to our amazing mother — to eat, even if it was just another fancy way to serve bread. And while we all thought our father was very harsh — and he was — he did the best he could do for us, and always remembered he had that responsibility.
I am very thankful for the parents I had and the lessons I learned under their roof, no matter how I might have felt at the time I was learning them!
Happy memories of other Thanksgiving Days, and happy wishes for new memories this time around.
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.