Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving in America. This is meant to be a day of thanks for the blessings we’ve enjoyed for the last year but it’s more a day of food and football. Tomorrow, as folks will spend the day buying a bunch of stuff they probably don’t need and can’t afford.

A Norman Rockwell painting we are not.

This painting is called “Home For Thanksgiving.” It was featured on the November 24, 1945 cover of The Saturday Evening Post. That was 77 years ago today.

The young man and his mother were real people. He was freshly home from the war and helping his mother with chores he likely would have hated doing in the Army Air Corps. Kitchen Patrol or KP duty probably didn’t seem so bad in the warmth of his mama’s kitchen.

Rockwell paid them each $15 to sit for the portrait. I read once that they owned the local dairy in their Vermont small town and that the young man was Rockwell’s milkman.

This painting was donated to the Eugene M. Connor Post 193 of the American Legion in Massachusetts many years ago. But they didn’t know it was an original and left it hanging in a hallway for decades. When someone offered $500 for what the Legion thought was a print, they took it to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts for appraisal.

After learning they owned an American treasure, they loaned it to the museum for display and safekeeping.

Just last year, the Legion sold it at auction for $4.3 million. This hefty sum went into a trust and interest earned will help pay bills and fund future repairs for the Legion.

It’s a beautiful slice of Americana and I like how it illustrates a nation transitioning from wartime into peacetime. Something so everyday like peeling potatoes probably felt almost luxurious to the soldier and his mother who had suffered untold sleepless nights in his absence.

Her relief is palpable.

Gratitude would have been the only thing that mattered in many households across the nation that Thanksgiving. Our soldiers were headed home. Life was returning to a new normal. Life was good.

Wherever you are in this world today, I hope life is good. Happy Thanksgiving!

The Last Pie

My Aunt Mary Ann was among the last of the old fashioned cooks in my family. She was skilled with abilities that were handed down through generations of women who could create meals, seemingly out of nothing more than flour, egg and bacon grease.

Pies, noodles, dumplings and fudge were among her specialties. She also made great lasagna and the best deviled eggs I have ever eaten.

When she died back in August, I couldn’t help but look ahead to the holidays and think about the empty seat at our family table and the foods she would normally provide.

I would especially miss those deviled eggs.

So, when we discovered a homemade pie in her freezer, it really should have come as no surprise. After all, she liked to have a baked good ready when someone in the community died or when there was another need.

My parents invited the family for an early Thanksgiving dessert night over the weekend. Everyone brought a homemade treat to share. We had red velvet cake, chocolate pie, peach cobbler and butterscotch pie.

Mary Ann’s pumpkin pie was there too. Everyone got to enjoy a small, symbolic piece of her last pie.

As much as Mary Ann enjoyed baking, she loved having her family together more. She told me that her happiest memories as an adult were when my grandparents were living and all the family gathered together for a meal. I think it would please her to know that her pie brought everyone together again.

I wrote a story about Mary Ann just weeks before she died and read it at her funeral. If you’re interested, click here to read that story. Otherwise, here’s wishing you a happy day, wherever you are, and a happy Thanksgiving if you are here in America.

Be safe, be well and try not to eat too much!

Scout’s Gratitudes

Scout was curled up with me in our reading chair last night and he looked so content that I started thinking about gratitude and cats and what he might be thankful for if he could speak.

I think this is what he would say:

I’m thankful for my furever home with the big, sunny windows and warm bed. I’m thankful for the squirrels, birds, bunnies and chipmunks that visit me through the window and for my mama who makes sure I never go hungry and always have toy mousies to play with. I’m thankful for my Grammy and Grampy who sent me turkey for dinner last night and for my new Christmas rug that Mama bought just for me.

Just so you know, I did not buy that rug for him but he has staked claim to the darn thing and, like everything else I own, it’s his now.

Not A Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving

For many Americans, Thanksgiving will not be like a Norman Rockwell painting this year.

There will be a lot of empty seats at tables across the country. Some of those seats will always be empty as the pandemic has tragically robbed us of over 250,000 lives so far.

Some will be filled again in a year or two. This pandemic won’t last forever if we can just stay healthy and live to see it through.

There was another pandemic a hundred years ago that had people wearing masks, cancelling events and avoiding others. Those folks probably thought it would last forever but it didn’t.

As we are all complaining about the inconvenience and the lost traditions and the missed opportunities to see family, it’s perhaps helpful to remember three things:

1. There are ways to connect via phone and internet that people didn’t have a century ago.

2. There are people who are alone on every holiday and who know the loneliness of isolation around the holidays all too well.

3. This too shall pass. When it does, perhaps those who are experiencing loneliness this year will think to include others who are always alone when it’s safe to do so.

Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of the way we celebrate Thanksgiving as it’s mostly about gorging on food, watching football and taking naps. At least that’s how it seems and I don’t especially enjoy any of those things. If I had my way, I’d pack a sandwich and spend the day in nature where I feel most alive.

Of course, after we eat, on the very day we gather to express our thanks many run out to see how much cheap stuff they can buy.

A lot of retailers will be closed this Thanksgiving, opting to open early Friday morning for their Black Friday sales. Although I heard on the radio that Rural King is open early on Thanksgiving with ten percent off animal food and other random stuff.

But I digress.

My day will include lunch with my parents and an aunt. I’m back in the work-from-home club and trying hard to avoid crowded places and to limit my exposure to other people. They’re retired and home and doing the same. Maybe we’ll watch a movie or play a board game and just be thankful that we’re together, well fed and alive.

So maybe it’s not a Norman Rockwell holiday but we have to live in the world we wake up in. Let’s try to make it as safe as possible so we’re all around for happier days when we can all set aside our masks and sit down together without worry.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. I am grateful for each of you who read and comment and occasionally strike up a real life conversation about some of the weirdness I write about here.

Keep it coming and have a beautiful day.

Happy Thanksgiving!