Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Looking Ahead by Looking Back

Given yesterday's topic, it seemed to me to make perfect sense to look ahead to Thanksgiving by looking back at Thanksgiving (don't worry, that will probably make sense in another paragraph or two!).

Twice in my past--either late in high school or in college, maybe even both--I participated in the Thanksgiving tradition of what was then my best friend's family. They were a farm family, and I knew all of them more or less well, so when they invited me out for Thanksgiving morning the first time, I said yes, even though they were inviting me out to work.

That's right, to work.

You see, every Thanksgiving, their family spends all morning chopping up this pile of logs that's been drying out over the course of the year and moving the chopped wood to the basement where their wood-burning furnace is. It takes pretty well all morning, as they are laying away enough wood for the next year. That was enough work for me, as I had a huge meal to get to at 1 o'clock! Their family, though, would be grabbing a quick meal for lunch and then going out to the woods to chop a new huge pile of wood to be drying out for the next year--you see the connection to yesterday's post by now: their Thanksgiving tradition was all about planning ahead. Only after they'd come back from the woods with more logs would they go in for the huge meal that their mother spent the afternoon fixing.

Now, just from morning, I can make a few observations. First, all the work I put in left me tired. I can only imagine how much more tired they were by the time they spent the whole day making firewood (of course, as farmers, they were mostly probably in better shape than me anyway!). But after putting in that work, I felt completely okay with everything I felt like eating--no guilt whatsoever, because I was pretty sure I'd already worked those calories off! Second, I really felt like I'd accomplished something meaningful, and how much greater would that feeling have been if I'd been doing it for my own family? It was also, for them--and I felt included in this--a great time of togetherness. Laughing, joking, and talking while working together.

I don't know. I feel like I'm still not doing this justice, because most of you are probably still not buying how spending your thanksgiving--does there exist a lazier holiday?--working could be such a good thing. And yet, it was. Maybe it was because of th way that the work seemed more meaningful than simply earning a buck. Maybe it was the social nature of the work. But there it was. I'm not someone who particularly likes to work just to work, and yet I felt it to be such a good and memorable thing that it has stuck with me.

What about you? If you haven't already blogged about it, drop me a comment with your most memorable Thanksgiving(s) or some Thanksgiving tradition that you like (or even that you don't like!). Tell us all a story about your Turkey-day! And regardless of whether you choose to share or not, have a good one tomorrow!


  1. Well, we don't lay aside firewood for the winter (we have a gas fireplace), but dinner is always at our house. I've just finished baking the pies, and while watching Dexter Sunday, I pressed the tablecloth and napkins I bought in Bruges just for this yearly dinner. Tomorrow, I'll get the turkey in the oven and set up two more tables so that the Thanksgiving table will stretch from the dining room well into the living room. It's a lazy day of overindulgence at chez Reed, but one I look forward to every year.

  2. Meaningful work IS a good thing. So is earning your food, so to speak.

    I rather detest most jell-o concoctions, but for Thanksgiving my mom always makes one with orange jell-o, grated carrot, crushed pineapple, and pecans or walnuts. Yum.