At this time of gratitude, I am perhaps most thankful that I don’t have to write a Turkeybiter.
Unless you have friends or family around the area of Emporia, Kansas, you probably haven’t heard the word before. Like lightsabers in “Star Wars,” Turkeybiters are a vestige of a more civilized time – short, simple notes in the local paper about how local families were spending their Thanksgiving. Usually, it’d be something along the lines of:
“Sally Johnson is gathering family from seven states for the Thanksgiving feast, which includes turkey, cornbread and Aunt Willie’s Buffalo-Squid Surprise that she’s made for 37 years. Annual traditions include board games, bad football and keeping Uncle Matthew from talking politics again.”
You get the idea.
Some people would mail them in. Sometimes teachers would assign them for homework. But mostly, the newspaper staff had to go out and hunt down a certain quota themselves. Our regular sources learned to quickly duck for cover when they saw an intrepid reporter approaching with a Turkeybiter gleam in their eye. After all, even the most damaging investigative piece would eventually come and go, but chatting even once in November would mark you as a potential Turkeybiter every single Thanksgiving.
Which, of course, made them a perfect celebration of the holiday. Like the Thanksgiving feast itself, they were:
- A lot of work
- Grumbled about constantly as the work went on
- Seriously appreciated as a special tradition once everything was ready to serve
And they were. People would thank us for carrying on the old-time hometown tradition. Some readers would get a glow from seeing the news of their neighbors. Some reporters would get a glow from seeing column inches that they didn’t have to worry about filling when everyone was out of town. Everybody got a win.
Odd? Sure. But somehow it worked.
And that’s also a perfect description of Thanksgiving.
It’s a strange little holiday, isn’t it? It sits tucked away in a corner like a guest at the kids’ table, apart from the gaudier Halloween and Christmas festivities. Oh, long ago in the early 20th century, it used to be a time for masks and costumes as well (seriously!). But these days, the weirdest things associated with the holiday are “Alice’s Restaurant,” the WKRP turkey drop, and the fact that Detroit Lions football is actually considered worth watching.
It’s quiet. Respectable, even. No decor on the house or giant pilgrims in the yard, just a lot of work that’s mostly seen by close friends and family. (Unless you’re one of the many who reaches out to the forgotten on Thanksgiving, of course.)
It doesn’t shout. And that’s OK.
In a country that’s so often extroverted, it’s OK to have a time about turning inward and considering gratitude.
At a time of year when the very landscape seems to become a little quieter, it’s OK to have a time that doesn’t need its own Mariah Carey anthem.
It’s an unheralded celebration that can feel exhausting, even burdensome in the days leading up to it. But oh-so-special when the moment finally arrives.
I hope you get to touch that quiet appreciation this year. To lift someone up or be lifted in turn. To share in a spirit of thankfulness that deserves to last beyond a November afternoon.
Celebrate. Enjoy. Remember.
And if you feel like sharing those memories in a Turkeybiter, I know just the editor to talk to.