Bruce in the Packet

119. Thanksgiving Day 2021
On Thursday, the 25th November 2021, an email arrived into my inbox shortly after noon from my friend Joyce, who lives in the same city.

<< Bruce
 Apparently it's Thanksgiving in America so just wanted to send you Thanksgiving greetings.
Not sure if you will be celebrating or not..... >>

Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. There is no Thanksgiving Day in Britain. The perversity is, while not having adopted the American notion of a Thanksgiving Day, yet Britain has fully embraced the Black Friday which follows the day after. Black Friday was meant to be a pejorative. It was the launch of the Christmas shopping season, which begins with sales, and results in a frantic mob congesting the shops and the streets to reach them. Over the years, what many of us viewed with horror and avoided has since become an exciting event. People want to immerse themselves in the crowds as if it was a treasure hunt en masse. Is this social bonding as on New Year’s Eve? Black Friday has become a social celebration. Not for me. I avoid it. I bought three pairs of socks online that day, but it was only a coincidence.
Thanksgiving Day is a family event and so it was in my family. The feast of Thanksgiving brought my extended family together to celebrate at alternating homes. My parents had their turn playing host, but we must have been the least convenient, since my aunts and uncles all lived in New York City or its vicinity and we lived way off in a suburb of Philadelphia. My aunts and uncles are now dead and my cousins dispersed with newly formed families. Familiar to me as children, I do not know my cousins well as adults.
Our first year in Wales, while Ms Keogh, my cherished companion, was still alive, my sister-in-law, Ginger, the spouse of Ms Keogh’s youngest brother, organized a Thanksgiving meal for the Keogh family. Ginger, like me, is American born. It was fun! But it couldn’t be held on a Thursday, because there was no national holiday for our gainfully employed in-laws. That was 2015 and my last Thanksgiving celebration.

Thanksgiving Day this year in Britain found me dining among friends, a get-together of some of the Cardiff Humanists. We met at Henry’s Café Bar. Turkey, the traditional main course of Thanksgiving, is not a commonplace meal in Britain. In the States, Ms Keogh and I might dine on honey smoked turkey hoagies from Wawa, a chain of convenience stores, twice a week. I have learned from my friends in Wales that they typically deprive themselves of turkey except at Christmas. Turkey was on the Henry’s menu, specifically to honor the American holiday. I didn’t even consider it. I had the fish and chips along with a pint of Guinness. I ate the chips with malted vinegar.
That evening, when I had returned to my flat, there was an email waiting for me. It was from a friend I haven’t seen in – well, I don’t rightfully know when we last met. Has it been more than two decades? Communications between us are rare, but there was this message on Thanksgiving Day:

        << Happy Thanksgiving from PA
                                            David W >>
PA? David lives in Alaska. What was he doing back in Pennsylvania? It was in Pennsylvania, decades ago, that friends would gather to celebrate a second Thanksgiving. After celebrating with our families, we would gather to celebrate as friends. I always preferred those secondary Thanksgivings. Early on this last Thanksgiving Day, I had been reminiscing about those festivities, those friends, David and the others. Early on Thanksgiving Day I had tears pool in the wells of my eyes with nostalgia, a tenderness for those irreproducible gatherings. It brought back to mind the time the meal was at David’s and Ken’s shared rustic apartment above the Pineville Post Office. The feast came out of their kitchen where the water wasn’t potable. That was the year Mary was studying at Princeton Theological Seminary. She was asked to deliver grace at table. David had contacted me and asked me to be prepared to deliver a grace for the opposition, and so I wrote the poem “atheist grace”. I was still a poet then.
Maybe it was the being back in Pennsylvania that also had David reminiscing about those past Thanksgivings with our friends. That year above the Post Office, I found the bay leaf in my soup, which meant I had to do the dishes. But others helped.
        How many a year has passed and gone?
        Many a gamble has been lost and won
        And many a road taken by many a first friend
        And each one I've never seen again
And like Dylan, I wish, I wish, I wish in vain….

Mr Bentzman will continue to report here regularly about the events and concerns of his life. If you've any comments or suggestions,
he would be pleased to hear from you. 

You can find his several books at Enshrined Inside Me, his second collection of essays, is now available to purchase.