When I was younger the one thing that always stood out in my mind were Hand Turkeys. Most every child who has not lived under a holiday rock knows how to do this:
- Get Yellow/Red/Light Brown Construction Paper.
- Get a crayon.
- Put hand on construction paper (Your Thumb far away from the other spread out fingers).
- Draw around hand.
- Add feathers to the four fingers on paper with crayons.
- Add Face and jowls on and under the thumb.
- Add Feet.
- Cut with kid scissors not really sharp enough to cut.
- Add glitter for some unknown reason.
- Put your name on it so everyone knows that is your turkey.
- Give to teacher so she can hang it on the extra board covered in Construction paper with a stenciled Happy Thanksgiving on the top and some sort of colorful chain loop hanging from it. Also made of construction paper.
- Have mom pick you up from school before Thanksgiving Break so you can point to your Hand Turkey.
Sure. They taught us about the history of Thanksgiving too. The nice version. The one where all the Indians came to the settlers with a general plethora of food and the settlers and the Indians all had delicious fare in happy pictures that sort of looked a little like a funny hat and shoes version of The Last Supper, and they all lived happily ever after making possibly...Construction Paper Hand Turkeys.
In public school they never really taught you about the Puritan/Christian side of Thanksgiving...and they sure as shit was not going to tell a K-8 grader: "And then the settlers killed a lot of Indians in violent battles, won...took all of their land for cheap and now they live happily ever after on Reservations with Casinos. Now. Lets make Construction Paper Hand Turkeys!"
I guess they figured we could learn that later in High School or College. You really don't want to ruin the fun of a glittery Construction Paper Hand Turkey.
If we look at our National Holidays in a historical perspective it is not all that charming, really. Dead American Natives and stolen land for Thanksgiving. There were some pretty unhappy African Americans during the time "Independence Day" occurred...
And remember when Washington and Lincoln had their own days and they merged that into one big Screw This President's Day (the National Equivalent of having to celebrate your little brother's birthday with yours because they both happen in the same month)?
If you look at the history for real? It makes your Hand Turkey look a little droopy and unevenly cut with a lot of glitter falling off of it. It is also the Hand Turkey where the kid took a black crayon and started criss crossing in hard streaks all over the Turkey (You knew that kid. I know you did. The one who was arrested for indecent exposure as an adult at the Bus Stop? Yea. That one.).
With all that said: Things have changed with our holidays. The now. The present. Thanksgiving has morphed into something actually wonderful. It is being with your family and friends and giving thanks that we are at least all here...no matter how dysfunctional, broke and bad off the whole first top half of the year was.
And you know what? It really doesn't matter if the whole Thanksgiving turns into a potato and cranberry dressing food fight with your sister in law having a minor stroke and the ambulance showing up. At least for that brief moment before the ambulance arrived to find her on the floor with bits of food in her hair that you were celebrating being a family for a brief moment.
Every once in a while you have to reclaim holidays. Just for the sanity of yourself. I cannot imagine the pain and grief Native Americans go through this time of the year from a historical perspective. Probably I guess the same amount of pain when drunk assholes put on stupid green hats who are not Irish on St. Patrick's Day to The Irish in this country or the nightmare of Cinco De Mayo or me when my husband's job considers Martin Luther King's Holiday a Non Paid Holiday and me just staring blankly at that whole situation.
The pain I cannot imagine. Even the drunk assholes and non paid holiday is a pretty damn lame comparison to historically having your people killed and your land taken as the backbone of a National Holiday.
...so the sting is taken off by trying to turn something horrible into something wonderful.
From one minority who happens to celebrate this day to another:
I don't forget the history of this day. I pray solemnly to it. And in turn...I celebrate what I consider the true meaning of what Thanksgiving should be right now: Being thankful and grateful that in 2011 I'm alive. I'm doing okay. I shouldn't be this broke, but hey...who isn't?
I'm surrounded by kickass people and an amazing husband...and I want them to celebrate by eating the bounty that I have procured from The Vons and Jons in Los Angeles eventually finding all of us trying to struggle through the two homemade pecan pies, the three sweet potato pies and the one store bought one that never gets touched (But someone takes a piece so that person doesn't feel so bad). Then we all find ourselves laughing and finding it really hard to get off the sofa....knowing that one guest will probably be completely unmovable and you just get a blanket and cover them up.
...and the next morning you make them coffee with a Turkey Omelet and send them home.
Lemons into Lemonade. Or maybe: Burnt Turkey into Cajun Turkey, I guess.
It's a far cry from what Thanksgiving really is historically. But, as us freaks say "Let's reclaim this son of a bitch" I think we have.
More Construction Paper Hand Turkeys. Filled with glitter and love. And thanks. Without forgetting.
Causes Shaun Landry Supports
The Alzheimer's Foundation, NAACP, Breast Cancer Foundation, Gilda's Club.