By: Scott Burkhead
In ramping up to thinking about all we have to be thankful for we drifted into a discussion of how Places are connected to the holidays. There is the friend remembering how her car blew its engine on her way home from college. She had the most wonderful dinner with a mechanic and his family. The Place she wanted to be was Kansas City. The Place she got is one she’s never forgotten.
I remember a recent Thanksgiving when my father-in-law was hospitalized in Syracuse and when we left him for the night the only place to eat was Denny’s. The holiday buffet was open and it might have been one of our best evenings of the year.
So, roaming through these memories we decided to show a few not so traditional celebrations that happen to be heavily influenced by Place
South of Mosul, Iraq, 2016
Dozens of American soldiers lined up, rifles slung over their shoulders and heads bowed, as one member recited a Thanksgiving prayer. Around 5,000 soldiers were in northern Iraq, assisting and advising Iraqi forces participating in the offensive to recapture Mosul from Islamic State.
“I want to tell my family now to be thankful that all these people are out here and be thankful for being alive… That’s all,” said Joe Hamilton one of the soldiers.
Roast turkey was served as the soldiers cheered and clapped standing in a single file waiting for their meal.
“It’s my first time away from home, definitely it’s a little bit hard, but I’ll be able to call my family on Facetime later then I’ll be able to share the holiday with them that way,” said Amanda Harrison of the 2nd Brigade.
In all the Thanksgivings in all the small towns and all the giant cities and other Places these soldiers may call home, this Place at this time will always be part of them.
Friendsgiving, Not Orphan Thanksgiving
Lane Moore, writing in Glamor says, “If you have a caring, safe, loving family during the holidays, I am happy to report that you have won the damn lottery and you should embrace this if you haven’t already. People who have that make me super happy because it seems so rare to me and it’s usually truly beautiful to behold . . . since I don’t have that I depend on Friendsgiving, a group of people who love each other and have chosen, for whatever reason, to spend the day together being grateful for how lucky they are to know one another. Because if you have people in your life who you love and who love you back, whether those people are chosen or not, you truly are lucky.”
A speech in his broken English
I grew up in the town of Kankakee, Illinois. I gave it its nickname, “Kankakee by the Sea,” to romanticize it in my mind. The community was made up of families of all religions and all economic backgrounds. (Excerpted from Honey Good’s 2014 story in the Huff Post Blog)
I had a grandfather from Russia. He ran away from his country at the age of 19 to escape persecution. He traveled over thousands of miles by foot in the freezing cold and then by sea to reach America. He had no money and could not speak English. He wound up in “Kankakee by the Sea” because he had a cousin who immigrated to the town. He married my grandmother, Sarah. She passed away before I was born. My grandfather had five sons and 14 grandchildren; our family was wonderful. We always celebrated Thanksgiving together. Fourteen grandchildren, 10 parents, two grandparents, extended family relatives that included the in-laws and the outlaws and friends who had nowhere to celebrate. He would make a speech in his broken English telling us to always love our wonderful country, The United States of America. To always speak of her with pride, to respect and defend her at all costs, to honor her as we traveled our own life’s journey, and to take a stand to make sure all Americans had the chance for a life of liberty and justice.
He would then talk about the ‘pursuit of happiness’ — that we had the responsibility to pursue it for ourselves. That it was there for us to chase and then own in this wonderful country and that because we lived in a democracy we had the freedom to be anything our little hearts desired. And I would listen and learn and see with my own eyes that this grandfather of mine was a grand man and I decided that I would copy him as best I could in all that he did. And I did and I do.
It takes all the little stories to complete the bigger story of our lives. Pass your childhood Thanksgivings on to all your loved ones.