Once Upon a Time on Thanksgiving

The Muppets were always on during Thanksgiving season. One of those Muppets movies would usually come on the day before Thanksgiving and King Kong would be featured on Thanksgiving day. I never watched these programs, they were just a part of the atmosphere that comprised the weather of my favorite holiday. I can almost smell my past and feel the homemade warmth of it when I say the word “Thanksgiving.” I remember that my grandmother prepared her dressing the night before and she crumbled the cornbread and the old bread that she had taken from the freezer and toasted before stirring all of the bread, dried sage and thyme, along with the sauteed green peppers, onions, and celery into a big yellow bowl. I helped my grandmother by peeling potatoes for the mashed potatoes she would put on the next day. I always spent time with my aunt, uncle, and cousins at their house on Thanksgiving, which I loved. I never ate Thanksgiving dinner fresh at my own house but the leftovers were always good.

I don’t remember anybody talking about going shopping during Thanksgiving season unless it was for food. The transformation of Thanksgiving into a shopping holiday is new. The general absence of shopping constitutes one of my central reasons for loving the holiday. But now, talk of Black Friday sales appear to be as central to the holiday as the celebration of Thanksgiving itself. In my recent memory, I can recall reading stories about people waiting in line for stores to open and folk fighting over merchandise; they were all horror stories. I don’t recall hearing good post-Thanksgiving shopping stories. Maybe these stories do exist but they’re just not as popular as the grim tales of people trampling one another for toys.

My mother always worked holidays because it was an opportunity for her to earn extra money; double-time and a half, I think. She had not experienced Christmas day off until I was almost out of college. I always understood that this was a tremendous sacrifice. I thought of her sacrifice when I read the stories about the Target, Best Buy, Walmart, Macy’s, and Toys R Us employees being compelled to work this Thanksgiving. At least in my mother’s case she could make this choice and would be compensated at a worthy rate. I don’t know what they pay at these big box stores but I can’t imagine that cashiers are breaking the bank. Best Buy issued a statement where they claimed that satisfying their customers would enable them to continue supporting their employees but I imagine that my idea of providing a “good job” and their idea would differ significantly. For one, a “good job” to me would be one that would pay you for time off during the holidays.

I signed my name to the petitions available at Change.org in support of the employees. I have luscious memories of Thanksgiving spent eating, talking, sharing, and laughing with family and friends. Stores were closed so going shopping wasn’t an option. Once upon a time on Thanksgiving, fellowship was normalized over adults fighting over toys.

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