I love Thanksgiving for its illusion of abundance. It brings back early childhood memories of the one day each year during the Depression when the food on my family’s table was not the leftover produce that my Uncle Leon could no longer sell at his stall, or the nearly spoiled organ meats that our local butcher offered at a steep discount.
But Thanksgiving day was quite the opposite, and while I obviously can’t recall what was served in 1936, the year I was born, the holiday was soon seared into my childhood memory as the day when the good times looked upon us in the form of charity gift baskets from philanthropists of various religious and political orders, much like the needy will be served today in volunteer kitchens across America and just as soon will be forgotten.
It did not take long before I was old enough to realize that the largesse of Thanksgiving was the rare exception, and that “just getting by,” as my mother’s brave optimism would have it, was the norm. Getting by, thanks to Mom’s piecework in the downtown sweatshops and my mechanic father’s signing on to one of the New Deal’s public jobs programs.