Is Thanksgiving still celebrated in the same manner as depicted by Norman Rockwell? I like to think so, especially if you have a large family that gathers at a relative’s home, seated at the dinner table and anticipating the arrival of that baked golden image of nutritional delight known as a turkey, fresh out of the oven. Nowadays, you need to add the sights and sounds of football on television, a cacophony of voices and laughter as a dozen separate conversations are held at once, and that inescapable but precious sensation of belonging.
In times much different than those celebrated by the great Rockwell’s magazine covers, it’s unsurprising that Thanksgiving is observed in different ways. Some individuals will bypass it for whatever reasons they have for doing so, but even those people separated from family or friends by distance, work demands or because of relations scattered all over the country, still try to work something of the holiday into their lives.
Since the day revolves around the traditional meal, even Food Network chefs recommend options if only you and someone special are having dinner together. Turkey can still be a part of the celebratory feast, only in a smaller format. Others have suggested that if turkey doesn’t appeal to you or you don’t want all of the leftovers, then roast a chicken and minimize the portions of sides to what you know you can handle. The point is, eat something on a day designed for those with healthy appetites.
Given my immediate family is fewer in number — and I’m not as voracious an eater as I was once notorious for doing — we have been exploring other menu items for Thanksgiving. Turkey remains the centerpiece of the dinner, but my wife buys a breast or two of white meat rather than the whole bird. One year we even tried turkey club sandwiches that were rather pleasing, but having a part of a turkey on which to nosh for a few days satisfies the need. That also eliminates the requirement for stuffing, but we’re still debating mashed potatoes and gravy or nothing in its place.
Vegetables are of primary importance with sweet potatoes topping the list. Not likely to make such list, though, is green bean casserole topped with French onions — not a big favorite with my wife and her mom, and not so desirable for me that I’ll fight for its inclusion. Trying something else is fine with me. Dessert, you ask? Pumpkin pie or roll and coffee make my day.
When not eating, we tend to catch something of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on the tube, followed by the dog show. Although our attention is focused on the screen, it is something that we do together, as are the games of chance and battle for supremacy in board entertainment we play across the card table that doubles as a work site for my wife’s craft projects.
That’s when we remember Thanksgivings past and the people we spent them with, prompting a modicum of melancholy because some of them aren’t with us anymore, but also a lot of memories of good times, and how those fun-filled occasions are still there, not simply a fond memory.
As for Black Friday? We forget it. Sure, it can save you a lot of money on those big ticket items that have been marked down for that day only as long as the supply lasts. But for us the sense of belonging I referred to earlier means a lot more, and who wants to be up early so you can be among the first to stream into the stores without the benefit of daylight? Hardier souls will disagree, but if you’re lucky enough to have the day after Thanksgiving off from work or school, why not enjoy it and sleep off all of that turkey you had?
That’s one way to celebrate Thanksgiving. Others probably have more active schedules to pursue during the holiday, but we take a less strenuous path. Whatever you do, though, be safe and have fun. That’s the best way to observe a time when we all count our blessings and share some of our good fortune during this more joyous part of the year.
The death of premier gossip columnist Liz Smith at 94 on Nov. 12 occurred the day after I finished reading R. Scott Williams’ richly-detailed biography of Oscar Odd McIntyre, “An Odd Book: How the First Modern Pop Culture Reporter Conquered New York.” Comparing the journalist who grew up in Gallipolis to the work of Smith is an apples-and-oranges exercise in that Ms. Smith reported on a world of entertainment and celebrity far different than the one McIntyre first presented to the people back home and throughout America starting in the post-World War I era.
The freshness of such reporting in a practically untouched field of newspaper and periodical journalism helped make McIntyre the most popular and highly-paid columnist of his time. With few or no rivals when he began producing what became known as “New York Day-by-Day,” one can find an explanation for his legacy as one of the most-read writers of his day. When others entered the field, they pursued other topics or focused narrowly on what was once called cafe society, the stage, radio or movies.
McIntyre did all of that and more, humanizing such zooming stars as screen idol Rudolph Valentino or humorist Will Rogers to the point his readers believed they too knew them personally. Beyond the column, McIntyre’s human interest pieces and profiles for such publications as Cosmopolitan made him a household name for almost two full decades.
The gossip columnists who followed in the wake of McIntyre’s passing on Valentine’s Day 1938 had their signature styles to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack, Liz Smith, dubbed the “Grand Dame of Dish,” being one of them. Most of them considered themselves to be reporters, and that’s not hard to accept because they did trod the light fantastic in search of news presented in a more personal and freewheeling fashion than what you saw on the front page.
Among them was Walter Winchell, whom Williams found to occasionally refer to Odd as “O.O. McIntyresome.” Winchell always sought validation and respect as a true newsman but never quite earned either due to his showy and vindictive nature. Instead, the reporter designation is truly owned by Odd McIntyre, who not only had the experience to back up the claim but the balance to report on the good and bad that made up life on the Great White Way that so utterly captivated him.
Kevin Kelly, who was affiliated with Ohio Valley Publishing for 21 years, resides in Vinton, Ohio.