Jim Jewell: On Thanksgiving, growing up

Thanksgiving is kaput; the insanity of Black Friday has disappeared for another year, and the Christmas marketing blitz has begun, even though I saw Christmas advertisements more than a month ago.
Dec 3, 2013
Jim Jewell


Thanksgiving is kaput; the insanity of Black Friday has disappeared for another year, and the Christmas marketing blitz has begun, even though I saw Christmas advertisements more than a month ago.

Maureen and I marveled at Thanksgiving in the Southwest corner. Traffic was pretty close to intolerable the entire weekend. We picked our way through the traffic, selecting our places to go where crowds would not be, such as hardware stores, financial institutions, grocery stores, and restaurants.

We celebrated Thursday quietly, asking a friend to join us for dinner at a new upscale eatery in La Mesa two communities north of us. A sparse crowd was dining. We had a nice meal with good conversation. Maureen had the turkey entree. I eschewed the turkey and ordered the pork shank.

My mother’s turkey, my sister’s turkey, my son-in-laws turkey are great. My smoked turkey is especially good even if I say so myself. However, I experienced the most spectacular Thanksgiving turkey a long time ago. Our friends, Mike and Sheri Kelly, invited us and two other couples to their home in Campo, a relatively rural area to the east, for the big feast. Mike prepared a stuffed duck inside a turkey inside a goose. It was slightly less than unbelievable.

Turkey not cooked at home is something I avoid on Thanksgiving.

As the weekend rolled on, I kept thinking about the difference between this holiday and the multitude of others we now have. Of course, the massive mass marketing has infiltrated practically all holidays. Thanksgiving is one of the worst from that aspect.

Other holidays seem to have some distraction from the original purpose. Aside from Veterans Day and Thanksgiving, the original intent seems to be overshadowed.

Christmas is filled with excitement and glorious times with the family, but the emphasis has shifted mightily toward Santa Claus, children’s joy, gift giving, and away from the birth of Jesus, which it was all originally about.

Easter also has lost a lot of its emphasis as a religious holiday, and there is a great deal of excitement around the Easter Bunny and Easter egg hunts. Independence Day (and pretty much all of the summer holidays) is a time to picnic, party, and watch fireworks shows.

Other holidays can bring loneliness. After spending several Christmases by myself (excluding ship’s company), I can attest there is hardly anything more lonely than Christmas away from home by oneself. Somehow, Thanksgiving without family is not so lonely for Maureen and me. Sure I miss my Tennessee Thanksgivings, and those away from my family.

But for some reason, Thanksgiving seems to really focus on what it’s all about: giving thanks. There seemed to be many things to give thanks for this weekend. My mother, Estelle Jewell, had two Thanksgivings. My sister Martha and husband, Todd Duff, traveled to Lebanon for the Thursday feast at Elmcroft and then turned around for the drive back to Signal Mountain where Martha hosted her family for their turkey dinner.

Our cousin, Kathy and her husband Bill Denny hosted 35 family members, including mother on the previous Saturday due to Kathy’s work schedule.

I’m thankful Martha, Todd, Kathy and Bill were there for my mother.

I’m also thankful for other, lesser known, events this weekend. Two of them began simultaneously 24 years ago. That is when, with the counsel of Maureen’s obstetrician, I left the labor room around noon for my Navy retirement ceremony. Blythe, our older daughter, stood in for Maureen at the ceremony. I was “piped” off the Naval Amphibious School after the presentation and made it back to the hospital in time. Sarah was born just after 9:30 that evening. It was quite a day. I’m sure I will never forget either.

Our younger daughter seems to be following in Blythe’s and my footsteps. The early 20s were a bit rough for all of us. It appears Sarah has gotten her traction and is on her way to a successful life. That’s when things started going well for her sister and her father.

It is difficult to believe I have now been out of the Navy as long as I was in it, a quarter of a century. That was a good ride.

I spend Thanksgiving weekend giving thanks. Oh yes, I also gave thanks that I’ll be home for Christmas.

Jim Jewell, a retired Navy commander lives in San Diego but was raised in Lebanon. His book, A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems, is now available through Author House, Amazon and Barnes and Noble online. Jim’s email is jim@jimjewell.com.


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