Remem-boring Thanksgiving in the Fifties
[These memories date from the 1950s. SB SM]
What do you remember of Thanksgivings of yore? I remember it, above all else, as being the most boring day of the year. Here’s why:
There are no other kids to play with. Everyone else has gone over the river and through the woods to their grandmother’s house.
You have to wear uncomfortable clothes, like that blue sweater with snowflakes that you got for Christmas two years ago that makes your neck itch.
Your parents make you watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television, and it’s the worst show of the year, ranking just before the Rose Bowl parade. I’m sorry, but a bunch of shivering people watching other shivering people tethered to giant balloon is just not exciting, interesting, funny or entertaining.
Your mother works like a dog while your father sits on his ass. As a kid you are somewhere in-between, so you get to do mostly menial chores like filling the water glasses. The division of labor is grossly unfair, but nobody says anything about it.
The batchelor uncles are always included. Firstly, they aren’t really your uncles, but distant relatives who have nowhere else to be on Thanksgiving. Inviting them is an act of kindness, or lip service to the importance of family, but the reality is that they are the two most tedious people on the planet. Walter doesn’t talk much, unless it is about the latest episode of Spin and Marty on the Mickey Mouse Club, his greatest interest in life. He is an actual, card-carrying member.
Brother Irving is passionate, but only about his hobby of going on the final run of a train line that has been recently phased out of existence. His other favorite topic is any train line about-to-be phased out of existence. In stark contrast with Walter, Irving is a compulsive motormouth. He can’t be shut up about the final ride on the ol’ Dubuque Red Flyer, and he’s a master of preventing your escape as well.
Can you imagine sitting on a couch with these two watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade (in black and white, by the way, and hosted by someone like Bess Myerson or Anita Bryant). After a few minutes you are praying to hear your mother telling you it is time to fill the water glasses.
The dinner itself is, well, boring, but delicious. Dad carves the bird while Mom takes care of everything else. The roles are well-defined. The pronouns are not confusing. The stuffing is cooked inside the bird. The ersatz uncles may be gay, but gently lumped in the category of “a little odd.” Five bites into the dinner, no one cares about anything but whether or not the gravy is still warm.
The television is left on during dinner, because at some point the parade gives way to the football game, which in my recollection is always the Detroit Lions against the Green Bay Packers. I don’t think the Lions ever won one of these games, and honestly no one cares. The adults light up as soon as the meal is finished and there are ashtrays on the dinner table.
Afterwards, the men, even the ones who are a little bit odd, loll about like sea lions looking for the soft spot at the beach on a sunny day. The only room with signs of life is the kitchen where there is a cacaphony of chatter and clatter from the galley slaves preparing the next course of requisite pies. The game drags on. Green Bay is ahead by 30, and it’s only the third quarter. Irving never stops talking about trains, even as my Dad falls dead asleep right in front of him.
Time stands still even as it leaps ahead more than half a century. Even though everything has changed, Thanksgiving is still boring, even the conversation. However, when someone asks the inevitable question inevitably “And what is your favorite holiday?” I’m quick to respond “Why, Thanksgiving!” Sometimes I even add “… of course.”