Thanksgiving Day is special to America.
Although the Plymouth colonists and Native Americans shared a bountiful day celebrating the autumn harvest in 1621, it wasn’t until 1862 that the day became an official holiday.
One can only wonder what President Abraham Lincoln had in mind in the midst of the bloody Civil War, when he decreed that the fourth Thursday of November would be the nation’s official Thanksgiving Day.
Did Lincoln have a wishful prayer in his heart that the divided nation would one day reunite and come together for a shared day of humble and sincere Thanksgiving?
During a recent discussion on the merits of Thanksgiving Day, Woodbury Mayor Harold Patrick and I agreed that Lincoln probably did prayerfully yearn for a united national day of giving humble thanks for the blessings bestowed upon the United States, as well as individual Americans.
Lincoln’s decree came during the nation’s darkest moment, when neighbors were killing neighbors.
For example, Confederate guerilla fighter “Pomp” Kersey was staging raids up on Short Mountain that year against DeKalb and Cannon County neighbors he suspected of being Union sympathizers.
Patrick shared the conviction that Thanksgiving Day is more meaningful, in terms of a sincere spirit of thankfulness than our present-day highly commercialized Christmas Day has come to mean.
“To me, the spirit of Thanksgiving goes back to the farm days of youth when our parents implanted a spirit of true sincere and humble thankfulness in our hearts,” Patrick said.
“We were poor, but we always had something to eat,” Patrick continued. “My parents were very humble, God-fearing, church-going people who imparted on me and my brother Buford that we were to give thanks for each other and for our blessings of life.”
White and Christine Mayo Patrick, the mayor’s parents, resided in the largely rural Pleasant Ridge farming community of Cannon County.
“I recall those Thanksgiving Days when we still had to do our farm chores − for on the farm, the chores could not go undone,” Patrick described. “We had hogs to feed, eggs to gather, and firewood to cut. We did our chores without fail.”
He added that some younger people today would probably assume life was much more difficult during that time period, despite his fond recollections.
“But, I wouldn’t take a million dollars for the way we were raised,” Patrick said. “We didn’t have money, but we had each other. And on Thanksgiving Day, we’d gather all the family and relatives in, and have a feast.”
He noted that the turkey never came from the store, unlike today.
“Mother would kill a big, fat hen that had passed the egg-laying stage, and make chicken and dressing as the main meal,” Patrick described. “We couldn’t afford to buy a turkey. But, Mom’s chicken and dressing was a meal fit for royalty, especially if we had dumplings too.”
Patrick revealed that his family remained thankful, even for the less than happy times in life.
“And I recall that we were thankful for our little brother, Dale, who died at age 3 in 1962,” Patrick recalled. “Dale was born with health issues that he never got over. To this day, my brother Buford, who will be 70 on Jan. 1, and I both remember to give thanks that we had a little brother named Dale.”
Today, the mayor’s brother resides in Petersburg, Tenn., and although the 65-year-old mayor lives in Woodbury, both remain close and appreciate their childhood experiences.
“We’re especially thankful for the good parents who raised us to love each other, to be God-fearing, and to be respectful of good neighbors,” he said.
Patrick said he’s especially thankful to live in a town made up of good neighbors.
“I’m thankful, humbled actually, that my neighbors let me serve as their mayor,” he added. “We’re blessed to live amongst so many good neighbors.”
The last Thanksgiving Day I shared with my father was in 1949.
Daddy Whittle perished the next year in a grinding car crash. What made it especially memorable, is that my parents chose that unusually cold Thanksgiving Day to kill hogs.
Momma Whittle had made turkey and dressing, with all the trimmings, the previous day.
The meal tasted especially good when we came in out of the cold to warm up and fill our tummies with my mother’s piping-hot vittles.
At age 67, I’m especially thankful this Thanksgiving Day, having survived three successful life-sustaining major surgeries this year.
Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones.