Chocolate turkeys and scratch-off lottery tickets. That’s how you knew it was Thanksgiving in my family.
A Russell Stover chocolate turkey stood proudly at each place setting, and under each dinner plate, my Auntie had hidden a lottery ticket. Each year we completely forget about the lottery tickets—my family is full of good eaters!—until my aunt said something like, “I wonder who’s going to have even more to be grateful for this year…” and then we foraged under our plates in search of our ticket and frantically started “scratching” to see if there was a winner among us. There rarely was, but that was almost beside the point.
Not exactly the traditions of Pilgrims, but they were ours. And it was New Jersey, so surely you can’t be surprised there was a gambling element! 😉
As much as these Thanksgiving traditions of my youth make me smile, they’re also bittersweet: my Auntie, who was the matriarch of our family, died many years ago and much too early. My grandmother (mother to my mom and aunt) had lived to be nearly 100, so we all thought we’d enjoy a similarly long life, but no such luck for the woman whose table we gathered around for countless family dinners.
The one tradition I desperately wish we had is a project called The Great Thanksgiving Listen by StoryCorps. Like many people, I was introduced to StoryCorps’ by their weekly broadcast on National Public Radio. (See video below to hear how Dave Isay got the idea for StoryCorps.) Their mission is to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives. They believe that everyone has a store to tell and their goal is no less than to record the “wisdom of humanity.”
The goal of The Great Thanksgiving Listen is to “work with high school students across the country to preserve the voices and stories of an entire generation of Americans over a single holiday weekend.” Using the newly launched StoryCorps app, anyone, anywhere can record the story of another person. Think about how amazing it would be to hear your grandfather recount what it was like to spend Thanksgiving in the trenches at Normandy, or how your Aunt Ethel met Uncle Joe when they were both part of a traveling circus. Now think how much more amazing it would be to hear their stories and their voices long after they are gone.
Please consider making The Great Thanksgiving Listen a part of YOUR family tradition. Had this existed many years ago, I might be able to hear my Auntie’s voice today and finally learn what her secret was to making such amazing mashed potatoes.