On Friday morning, a room full of 3- and 4-year-olds made a Thanksgiving memory. Dressed as pilgrims or Native Americans, they sang for parents, grandparents and other family members at the First United Methodist Church Early Learning Center in Columbus. Videos of the program commemorating the first Thanksgiving will long live on to remind them one day how engaging they truly were.
The concept of Thanksgiving is nebulous for children so young, but they’re catching on to some basics. They know that turkeys, eating and somehow boats are involved in this New World saga. They’re also beginning to grasp what being thankful is about. A few of them sat cross-legged on a classroom floor Wednesday to talk about it before rehearsal.
“What are you thankful for?” they were asked.
“Daddy!” one quickly responded. It took only a moment to remember that Mommy ranked right up there as well.
“My dog, Jacob,” said 4-year-old Emily Taylor, which prompted Patton Brown, 3, to be thankful for his four-legged buddy, Taz. Emily’s parents are Jay and Allison Taylor. Patton is the son of Russell and Michelle Brown.
“My daddy and mommy and my toys,” chimed in Aiden Clemmons, 4, whose parents are Craig and Anne Clemmons.
Brianna Turner was grateful for parents, Eddie and Erika Turner, but also for her brother, J.J. — and her shadow.
With only a very gentle prodding from their teacher, they all were very thankful for Jesus.
In time, their memories of songs about Turkey Toms and Turkey Moms, costumes and floor strips of masking tape bearing their names, to remind them where to stand, will fade. They will be replaced by other remembrances as they mature — memories similar to those a few of our neighbors share today about Thanksgivings past. What the children won’t realize for a while is that every verse, every instruction, even the paper hats and headbands, play a small part in passing on some of the most important lessons of all — the ones about sharing and thankfulness.
“My ‘first career’ was as a newspaper reporter and editor, and during those 11 years I volunteered to work every Thanksgiving. I did not mind because I’m not a big fan of Thanksgiving foods (i.e. dressing, sweet potato anything, congealed salad — eeewww!), and working Thursday allowed me to have Friday off, so I could go home for a long weekend. (After 14 years working at Mississippi State it is hard to imagine working the day after a holiday, much less the holiday itself.)
One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions has always been watching the Macy’s Parade. I love the spirit, the floats, all the Broadway production numbers, the Rockettes and, of course, Santa Claus!
I am happy I now get to spend Thanksgiving with my family, but I will always be thankful for my years with the newspaper and for sharing Thanksgiving with the other writers. We were our own family, and we felt like we were making a difference.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone, especially to all of you who have to work Thursday to make life a little better for the rest of us.”
“One of my favorite Thanksgivings was celebrated as a young girl. It was special because a large number of family members traveled home. Dinner was at my paternal grandparents’. My role was to decorate and set the tables. They made sure it was done right! There was a table set for the adults and another for the children. This particular year I managed to inconspicuously eat with the adults. I surprised myself by being seen and not heard. That was hard, but I knew the rules if I wanted to listen to the grown folk. It was also fun to play the jazz albums my uncle and cousin brought home from college. I was careful not to scratch them. Following dinner, we went to my uncle and aunt’s house for dessert. Boy, did she make a great mint chocolate brownie. Fabulous cooks! There was much love, family and fun shared. These are great memories and I am thankful.”
“One of my most memorable Thanksgivings was 1990. I had been deployed to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and we arrived in country about Nov. 5 or 6. It was the first time I’d been away from my kids on Thanksgiving. I got up very early that morning to call, about 4 a.m., because the day was about gone back home. I guess I visited about 45 or 50 minutes (by phone) because all the family was there.
It was also memorable because we were in preparation for war. We had a church service that morning where we thanked God for taking care of us in a foreign country. Then, as the acting command sergeant major for the 386th personnel administration battalion, I had the opportunity distribute care packages; I was just amazed at the number of packages that had come for the soldiers! Just to see the smiles on their faces from knowing somebody back home cared about them …. Inside practically every package was a letter from someone back home wishing us well over there. It was very touching to me.”
“Thanksgiving 2012 we spent the day traveling for a holiday to ride the Polar Express in Chattanooga. I wanted my kids — four, ages 6 to 13 — to experience this Christmas magic while they were old enough to appreciate it but not too old to think it was uncool. My husband and I, both previously married, have a blended family. His oldest son lived in Huntsville, where we spent Thanksgiving day, sharing a meal with my husband’s ex-wife. A surprise to most, not only was it drama-free, we even went to a few Black Friday sales together before our family headed on to our destination.
After months of planning, coordinating matching reindeer shirts and the six of us cooped up in one motel room for three days, it was a Thanksgiving vacation we will always remember. After that, I wanted to bring a “polar express” to West Point as the new director of Community Development at The Growth Alliance. I wanted other children who may not be able to ride the classic train to experience that Christmas magic. That dream becomes a reality on Dec. 2 starting at 4 p.m., when the Kansas City Southern Holiday Express comes to West Point, with Santa on board for kids of all ages to visit and tour for free.”
“I was a young newlywed living on the Gulf Coast and decided to prepare my first Thanksgiving meal for my in-laws. (For all who know me, the words chef or Betty Crocker would never be used to describe me, and I do mean never.) For weeks I planned, and by planned I mean called my mother for recipes, instructions and the often distress call for help. My first sign should have been when grocery and phone bills were more than two months rent! Who knew one meal could cost so much time and money?
Frazzled, the big day arrived with me thinking what a mess and how in the world had my mother so effortlessly prepared this for years? But I thought I was in the homestretch until I looked around my kitchen. Literally, there was not one single clean pan or dish left, but there was food on the table, I think. The fiasco that was my first and last Thanksgiving cooking adventure was not over. As we sat down to enjoy the meal, I felt funny … oh no! I had the flu!
I spent the following days ill and never got to eat one bite of that meal. My husband was left with the mess and a sick wife — not exactly the day I’d imagined.
So, as Thanksgiving is here again, I am thankful for a mom that still cooks a delicious meal for us each year and a husband who does not mind Hamburger Helper.”
“A Thanksgiving I remember so clearly was my first Thanksgiving in the Navy. I went in around the 15th of November, 1955. There I was (Naval Training Center, Bainbridge, Maryland), 18 years old, away from home for the first time, a brand new recruit with probably 500 other recruits who were lonely for home. We were just babies and homesickness was settling in.
In the Navy, they keep you busy every minute; you’re scared because you’re in boot camp, in the process of being conditioned. But when we went to the chow hall Thanksgiving day, it had been decorated — as much as old, hard-nosed military men would decorate. The tables had tablecloths of all things on them. We were served on military trays, but some of the people were dressed as pilgrims, Indians and missionaries. It was very dramatic. … We were even allowed to go back for more food, and they brought in church groups to sing for us.
When we finished we got back in formation to be marched like we expected to be, but we were dismissed and told we could go anywhere within bounds. By that time, we didn’t know how not to be in formation!
They tried to make some semblance of a Thanksgiving memory for us that day when I was away from home, in this strange place. We were all just beginning to bond, to make friends, and some of them I have remained in contact with for lo these many years. That little bit of relaxed moment they gave us that day allowed us to be, for a while, more or less normal.”
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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