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Being thankful in different ways

Preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday in my youth was an important time for me.

School, up to that time, had been boring. I was used to running footloose and fancy free all summer, attired only in the basic clothing to qualify as “acceptable” to my mother.

Then, immediately following Labor Day, life changed. Incarcerated in a brick building, forced to wear a shirt, clean jeans, stockings and shoes, I was expected to put pen to paper and produce passing grades for teachers who considered boys just one step up from wild animals.

Thanksgiving was different. The teacher actually encouraged us to study about the good things in life – Indians and Pilgrims working and foraging together to produce a monumental feast. Muskets, bows and arrows, turkey hunting … that was more like it.

I can still remember all the little projects our teachers would assign in preparation for our big class celebration.

In my early elementary years, we would attempt to color inside the lines of mimeographed Thanksgiving scenes.

A year or so laterm we would construct turkeys out of different colored pieces of paper. Somehow, most of the turkeys ended up looking more like peacocks.

Other class members would be busy making Pilgrim hats and guns out of cardboard, while the rest would work designing paper feathers for war bonnets.

Toward the end of our elementary school years, our mothers would be given the task of designing costumes to make us look like Pilgrims or Indians. (Naturally, we would wait until the last minute before telling them about this project.)

It really didn’t make much difference. By the time we’d waged war through a couple of recess periods, we looked more like desperadoes from south of the border than the festive Pilgrims and Indians we were supposed to portray.

But, as much fun as all that was, I must admit that the main reason we were so happy was the two-day vacation that always came with the Thanksgiving holiday.

As my junior high and senior high years were flying by, I thought less about the Thanksgiving holiday and more about the long holiday season that was soon to begin.

Years after my schooling ended, I began to look at Thanksgiving in a different way. That’s because I had reached an age when I again wanted to become part of the festivities. I had finally realized everything we had to be thankful for, and that family was the most important.

(Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He lives near Cambridge.)

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