Mix together family, traditions, food and time and a good story is bound to come forward eventually.
I asked some of my artist friends to share their Thanksgiving stories, and they came back with some good ones I share below.
First, here’s one of my own favorites I love to retell every year. This happened about 18 years ago.
I wrote Richard Simmons, the exercise and weight-loss guru, a thank-you letter via a form on his website one year before Thanksgiving. I had tried a pie recipe of his and planned to serve it at Thanksgiving dinner. I have no idea what prompted me to do that.
The day before Thanksgiving, the phone rang and a soft-spoken man claiming to be Simmons is on the line. When I laughed and said prove it, he began reading back my letter. He tells me that he likes to personally respond this time of year and noticed in my web signature that I’m an artist.
It happens that Simmons studied art and even traveled to Italy for his studies. I asked why he switched careers and his response was, “I’VE GOT TO BE AROUND PEOPLE!!”
Hearing that loud, unmistakable television persona come through the phone, I knew then he was who he said he was. A few weeks later, an autographed photo of Simmons arrived and was prominently displayed at the next few Thanksgiving dinners.
Here’s a tale from Ginger Annette, mixed media artist (gingerannette.com):
“Being a single parent, sometimes my daughter would have to spend the holidays with the divorced side … and I would volunteer at the homeless shelter to serve Thanksgiving dinner to people in need like me, clinging to whatever we had at the time and I always gave lots of hugs and kissed children on the cheeks and talked with everyone and pushed wheelchairs and moved tables and usually never got to eat. However, I always got a card with several signatures from people who remembered me during those hard times. One day I was walking down the street months after Thanksgiving and I was recognized and hugged all over again and it felt good.
“It was hard being away from my daughter during the holidays. These people didn’t realize they were helping me more than I was helping them. I was so lonely, it was great seeing people being together with their families. It was a time I will never forget.”
John Delafield, who creates earthenware pottery (delafieldpottery.com):
“We always baked a bunch of rolls to go with our meal. One year someone let the rolls burn a bit. No one wanted to eat them so we agreed to take them outside and have a Texas version of a snowball fight with the rolls. We’ve been burning some each year since!”
Richard Hall, painter (ThePintailGroup on Facebook):
“Several years ago I decided that we would have a Sandhill Crane for thanksgiving so I processed the bird and placed it in the roasting pan in the fridge. I for some crazy reason decided that I wanted to keep the long black legs on the bird so I left the bird sticking its feet out towards the door, which happened to be about my wife Carolyn’s height. When she looked into the fridge early the next morning, I heard a blood curdling scream coming from the carport where the fridge was located. Seems the legs and large black feet sticking right at her face was way beyond any expectation of a nice turkey that she was planning on. To this day she tells everyone how frightened she was and how sometimes it is really hard living with a crazy man.”
Richard is not crazy, by the way.
Have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving, and I hope you have only good stories (and a long nap) to share after.
Cohen is an artist and founder of First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards. Find him at ArtValet.com.