Talk to the Hand Turkey

OK, who else remembers hand turkeys?

I suppose there are sillier questions to start a morning with, like “Which is louder, red or 13?” or “Can the Broncos build a real offensive line?” But then, hand turkeys were kind of a silly thing. If you have a kindergartner, you almost certainly know the drill : trace your hand with a pencil or marker, add a face on one end and boom! Instant turkey.

It still makes me laugh because it’s so easy. You see, in a world filled with brilliant holiday crafters, my skills more or less peaked in grade school. Wrapping paper and I have a notoriously uneasy relationship. My attempts to depict hearts or shamrocks usually look like someone let the air out of them. And the less said about my cooking abilities for any holiday (or at any other time), the better.

But when it comes to hand turkeys, we’re all on a level. If you can draw a steady line, you’re good. Maybe even if you can’t.

It’s a simple, weird ability for a simple, weird holiday.

Yeah, I said it – Thanksgiving’s kind of weird. Nice, but weird. Think about it for a second.

It’s a time for stepping aside in quiet contemplation – whose celebrants then complain because it doesn’t draw the attention that more public holidays like Christmas or Halloween do.

It’s a moment for being grateful for what we have, right before four weeks of being told that we don’t have enough.

It’s a time when really odd traditions have the power to stick. Like being passionately devoted to cranberry sauce shaped like a can. Or listening to (and loving) 18 minutes of Arlo Guthrie. Or paying attention to the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions in any shape or form.

Most of all, it’s a time to reach out and reach in. Reaching out to a community, especially those often forgotten. Reaching in to those we care about most.

Which means that once again our kindergarten teachers were right. A hand really is the symbol of the season.

And it’s why this Thanksgiving may be especially hard.

This year, we’ve added one more oddity to the list – to reach out by staying back. To show how much we care by keeping our distance.

That’s not easy.

For a lot of us, Thanksgiving is about drawing people close together (even if some of them are then banished to the kids’ table). Even in a normal year, when someone can’t be there – whether for one feast or for a lifetime – it leaves a hole. This year, the holes may well feel like a Swiss cheese. It’s hard to be thankful for what you have when everything inside you is saying there should be more.

But then, gratitude is easy when everything is in abundance. It’s the harder times that test us. Are we truly thankful – or just comfortable?

Is that hand there to provide others with what they need – or just to take what we think we deserve?

Can we show love, and caring, and thought for others even when it’s difficult? Even if it means making a quiet holiday a little quieter?

I think we can. And I think we do it just like the kindergarten teacher showed us.

Make things simple, not complicated.

Hold your hand still.

Draw the line carefully and firmly.

And then put the best face on it that you can.

This isn’t forever. It can be better and it will. But we need patience for now to bring the joy that will come.

This year, it’s all in our hands.

Beyond the Black

Beware! The end of Civilization As We Know It is upon us!

No, not the winding-down of the Mayan calendar. I’m pretty sure the last few images on it translate to “Don’t be caught short in the new epoch! Buy your next Long Count calendar now!”

I don’t mean the sunset of the Hostess Twinkie either. One way or another, Twinkies will live on long after any of us, possibly as attic insulation.

And as for any particular election results, please. A day in which the United States survives political gridlock and uncertain leadership is also known as Wednesday.

No, I’m referring to the (drumroll please) SHOPPING INVASION OF THANKSGIVING!

You’ve surely heard about it. How those Black Friday sales kept creeeeping ever closer to the family sanctum of Thanksgiving only to spill over into that blessed time at last. How it’s an offense to humanity, to dignity, to blue-collar American workers and their values. Oh, we got trouble, my friends, right here, I say, trouble, right here in River City …


All right. I’ve exorcised Professor Hill. But his spirit does seem alive and well at times. And well it might. After all, American consumers are being marched into those stores at gunpoint. It hardly bears thinking …


Well, then the store owners. Each and every one of them compelled by alien mind control to open up for business …

You’re kidding?

All, right, but we do have to think about the workers. I’m sure many of them would rather be spending the holiday with their families than grinding out another day on the job, uncompensated, unrewarded…

Although, wait a minute. I’ve worked on Thanksgiving before. So have others I know, usually as part of a skeleton crew to free up as many workers as possible. And as I remember, the paycheck didn’t stop. Sometimes there was even a bonus for working a holiday — not win-the-lottery levels, but a little bit of extra help toward Christmas. Our families usually understood.

I guess it comes down to this. How resilient do we believe the spirit of thankfulness, brotherhood and family really is?

I happen to believe it’s a little tougher than many of us think.

I’m not saying I think it’s a great decision on the part of the American commercial sphere. I like creating a quiet space. I like having a time set apart. I think most of us do.

But if we have to compel or shame everyone into observing it — well, how much credit are we giving it really?

True thankfulness is a choice, on the part of those who give and those who receive. Is it such a fragile choice that we have to take away all the others lest someone be tempted?

Compelled peace is an oxymoron. Or it should be.

I hope the “invasion” doesn’t last. But if it does, Thanksgiving will survive. It may survive on a Friday or Saturday in some homes (heck, it already does), but so long as people want to keep it, it will stay.

So rather than rail and moan, let’s continue to keep it. Let’s be grateful for those who do. And let’s keep that spirit of gratitude alive through the holidays and the time beyond.

Many thanks, everyone.