It's November, and you know what that means: Seven weeks of holy days and holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving and stretching through to the Feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6 (for those of you who celebrate it).
I love this time of year, with the cooler weather and fall colors (usually) in full display outside. But my favorite day of them all is Thanksgiving, a holiday that doesn't involve anything but the gift of presence, and food.
Lots and lots of food.
As the youngest of six children, growing up in a neighborhood where there were other large families, my memories include playing outside before and after the meal. And when the older kids from the neighborhood got married, their spouses joined in games of tackle football, tag and kick-the-can. It was a glorious time to be a kid living in small-town South Texas in the early 1970s.
But those weren't the only reasons why it was a magical time.
It was also an era of classic holiday cartoons, and I was among the first to see the inaugural airing of “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” which featured the Peanuts gang: Charlie Brown and his beagle Snoopy, and Snoopy's avian buddy, Woodstock. Lucy and Linus, Sally, Peppermint Patty, Marcie and other also were there!
According to www.imdb.com, the half-hour animated TV special – based on illustrator Charles M. Shulz's cartoon series – first aired on Nov. 20, 1973, spinning a tale about how “Peppermint Patty invites herself and her friends over to Charlie Brown's for Thanksgiving, and with Linus, Snoopy and Woodstock, he attempts to throw together a Thanksgiving dinner.”
In typical fashion, Charlie Brown does his best to make the best out of a situation that really isn't of his own doing, but still manages to get blamed along the way: As he and his sister Sally prepare to go to their grandma's house for Thanksgiving dinner, Charlie Brown receives a call from Peppermint Patty, his very brash friend who tends to charge in before realizing she needs to think things through first.
True to form, she invites herself over to his house for Thanksgiving dinner, and along the way, puts out the word to others that he's dishing up dinner.
Linus, the level-headed member of the gang, suggests a solution: Why not have two dinners? That way Charlie Brown can eat with Peppermint Patty and friends before dining with his family.
A great idea, but Charlie Brown points out to his friend that his cooking skills are limited to preparing toast and cold cereal. Still, Linus is determined to help his friend, and recruits Snoopy and Woodstock to help set up for and prepare “dinner.”
There's a smorgasbord of pretzels and popcorn, buttered toast, jelly beans and ice cream sundaes, but Peppermint Patty is not a happy camper with the non-traditional fare, and berates poor Charlie Brown, who embarrassedly leaves the table. However, Marcie suggests that their friend might not have been the one who invited everyone over, and that it may have been Peppermint Patty blustering her way into an invitation.
Even though she wants Marcie to apologize on her behalf, Patty ultimately apologizes to Charlie Brown in person.
All ends well, as Sally and Charlie Brown's grandma invites the kids over, and they enjoy traditional Thanksgiving fare, as Snoopy and Woodstock have their own celebration back at the doghouse.
It's a great tale for kids, with lessons about kindness and respected woven in, but now that I'm older, I see a different aspect of “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.”
More than 20 years ago, a newspaper job brought me to East Texas, and between work schedules and distance from family, I knew I wouldn't be making it home for holidays, and if I did, it wouldn't be on the actual holiday.
But that was cool, because like the Peanuts gang, I got to celebrate with colleagues who quickly became my East Texas family.
Granted, they're not celebrations centering around pretzels and popcorn – my old editor Jim creates jaw-dropping meals and my friend Sue's mom puts out a huge spread worthy of the best East Texas cooks – but the camaraderie and friendship and love are very much there.
It's the greatest thing I'm thankful for, each and every year.