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By Melissa Minners
Thanksgiving Day means many different things to many different people. As we grow older, we learn that the tale of the very first Thanksgiving Day we were told as children was a fabrication of sorts. Pilgrims that arrived in Massachusetts did have a harvest festival with a Wampanoag tribe, but it wasn’t a thanksgiving ceremony to the Pilgrims, who believed in solemnity and fasting for true thanksgiving. This was more of a party, but it wasn’t something that Americans celebrated annually until President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving Day a national annual event in 1863.
All those tales of turkey served at the first Thanksgiving Day feast were also hogwash. The Pilgrims and the Wampanoags more likely ate fish, eggs, corn, vegetables, and fruit. In fact, turkey didn’t become a Thanksgiving mainstay until the 1860s. Tom Turkey was safe all those years! Who knew?!
Are we jaded because historians have begun to shed some light on the holiday? Hell, no! Thanksgiving Day still remains one of my favorite holidays of the year!
As a child in school, Thanksgiving Day meant that it was time to break out the crayons, pencils, markers, and paint brushes and make outlines of our hands that we would cleverly turn in to turkeys by adding legs and faces. Who doesn’t remember one of these “hand-made” turkey drawings hanging on their mother’s refrigerators? It also meant a lightening of the school work load in favor of Thanksgiving Day enactments – usually in the form of a play. I got to be a Pilgrim one year. As I remember it, I had only one line and was in charge of making the popcorn. Boy, was I ever proud! It also meant reading tons of books like Squanto, Pocahontas, The Thanksgiving Treasure, tales of the Pilgrims and their journey to the Americas, and more. But most importantly, it meant time off from school!
Having off from school for Thanksgiving Day was a veritable treat for any kid. Some kids just slept late, ran out and played, and basically did whatever they wanted. But the Minners household was steeped in tradition. On the night before Thanksgiving Day, we usually got to stay up late to help make the various desserts for the holiday. Mom would break out the Pillsbury Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and we would carefully space out the little dollops that would become the most scrumptious cookies I’ve ever eaten. We would make brownies, too! And pumpkin pie! Back then, we didn’t buy a ready made pie – we baked them from scratch…with a little help from Libby’s that is.
Thanksgiving Day morning would begin with my mom and dad preparing the stuffing while the kids sat around the television set watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Soon, our parents would call us into the kitchen so we could perform the insane ritual of yelling “Hello down there!” down Tom Turkey’s butt prior to stuffing it. It was now time to sew up that bad boy. My father, always one to get into his roles, would approach the bird with hands held upright like that of a sterilized surgeon preparing to operate. The sutures complete, we would plop ourselves back in front of the television, munching on celery or cheese as we watched the end of the parade, waiting in anticipation for Santa Claus.
The turkey always took forever to cook and so we would end up in front of the television for hours watching movies like King Kong, Mighty Joe Young, Godzilla, and March of the Wooden Soldiers. The weeks prior to the holiday were rife with holiday specials like A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, The Thanksgiving Treasure (an adaptation of the book), and more, but for some strange reason, we looked forward to the movies we watched while Tom was in the oven. I remember the profound disappointment we felt when the networks stopped airing these movies on Thanksgiving Day. It was like losing an old friend. Sure, we could rent them from the local video store and watch them on Thanksgiving Day, but it just wasn’t the same.
Once the turkey and fixings were done, it was time to stuff ourselves silly with bird, stuffing, potatoes, candied yams, and more. All around the table was silence except for the sounds of forks and knives clinking against plates. It seemed we couldn’t get enough and kept going back for more! Then, someone would remember dessert and we would all quickly clear the table, swearing we’d have enough room to eat more than just a slice of pumpkin pie. Finding that our eyes were in fact bigger than our stomachs, we’d settle for that single slice, vowing to return for more later. Invariably we would, crafting sandwiches from the leftover turkey and scrounging whatever other leftovers were around.
In later years, independence from the family meant independence from tradition. Thanksgiving Day was spent haphazardly, never knowing exactly what would happen or where we’d be eating. One year, I ventured into Manhattan with some friends to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person. Things were tight – and I do mean tight! People jostling each other around for a good view of what was coming up the street. We were at the beginning of the parade, as I remember. I had always thought that the performers on the floats were lip-syncing when I was a kid watching the parade on television. Here was my proof! Each passing float proved it! Performers were talking to each other instead of singing! AHH!! The balloons were cool, but they weren’t the same as the balloons of my youth, and so I was disappointed. And all those people! From that day on, I watched the parade on television, realizing that it was a much more enjoyable experience that way.
Back then, there were Thanksgiving Days that I ate at three different tables, each friend inviting me to another dinner. There were some that I spent at work, eating whatever meal we could scrounge…hopefully something containing turkey. I remember one year when having Thanksgiving Day off came as a surprise – I only found out the day before. Shopping at the grocery store was extremely intolerable…but somehow I made it through. Of course, there were no hopes of buying a turkey on that day. I got hold of whatever I could – yams, cranberry sauce, creamed corn and a frozen turkey dinner from Boston Market – and made due. By then, I had children – the furry kind. Each pet received something of a turkey dinner. Even in years that the turkey came in cans, they were always grateful.
Now, I feel a resurgence for the traditions of yore. Things are a tad different – we celebrate Thanksgiving Day either the weekend before or after as my job necessitates that I work on the actual date. Old traditions arise anew as the baking of treats begins the night before the big feast. The next day brings the promise of a veritable feast, filled with many of the foods that were heaped upon the tables of my youth, and some new additions that we all agree make the meal complete. And, of course, my children – still the furry kind – get to sample some of the eats gratefully. In fact, my oldest was waiting at the stove last year, staring at the slowly cooking turkey with anticipation…not to mention some drool!
Just as in years past, dinner is followed by the rest period – a time where everyone finds themselves seated around the television staring in a turkey-induced daze at whatever happens to be on in hopes that we will soon find enough room in our stomachs for dessert. When we all can bare to move around, the coffee is made and the desserts are heaped upon the table. When the gorge-fest is complete, we flop down in various positions swearing that we will never eat like that again…that is, until the very next Thanksgiving Day. We relish each other’s company until its time for some of us to go home…usually fairly late as no one can bare to move after stuffing themselves with more than you could ever imagine stuffing inside a turkey.
Hugs, kisses, and thank yous abound as the loved ones leave and we realize just what it is we are thankful for. It’s not the tales about Thanksgiving we were told as youths. It’s not the holiday specials or the days off from work or school. It’s being with the people you care most about – sharing time and presence – that is the true meaning behind Thanksgiving Day.
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First Aired On: The CBS Network
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I was a child, I remember watching a television holiday special featuring my favorite Star Wars characters in my bedroom on my Zenith black and white television. Aptly dubbed The Star Wars Holiday Special, the show aired only once on CBS on November 17, 1978. Years later, I still had memories of the show – vague memories, but memories nonetheless. I would mention the show to other Star Wars fans and would often be looked rather strangely. A Star Wars Holiday Special? No way! They had no recollection of the show. Now, I started to doubt myself. Do you remember the Droids cartoon? Of course! What about the Ewoks cartoon? Sure! But not The Star Wars Holiday Special? Hell no! Undaunted, I was determined to prove that the show existed. My proof came with the purchase of my first internet ready computer. There were thousands of fans out there who remembered the holiday special and one person in particular who sincerely wishes we didn’t – Mr. George Lucas. I was able to get my hands on a VHS copy of The Star Wars Holiday Special and at last I had tangible proof that the show actually existed.
Now, thirty years later, I decided to celebrate the anniversary of The Star Wars Holiday Special by watching it once more. The show takes place mostly on Kashyyk, the homeworld of the Wookiees and centers on one Wookiee family in particular. Life Day, the Star Wars equivalent of our Christmas, takes place very soon. Chewbacca has never missed spending a Life Day with his family, but events are conspiring against him. Father Itchie, wife Malla and son Lumpy are all waiting nervously, worried that Chewbacca will be caught in the Imperial blockade recently set up around Kashyyk in an effort to capture any “rebel scum” who dare enter the area. Can Han Solo get his co-pilot and best friend home in time for the holiday?
The first time I sat down to watch this holiday special, I was a child, filled with wonderment at seeing my favorite Star Wars characters on television. The second time I sat down to watch it, I felt vindication at holding in my very own hands the television special that none of my friends believed existed. Then I actually watched it and wondered why the hell the memory of The Star Wars Holiday Special remained in my mind for so long. The first twenty minutes or so of the show takes place at Chewbacca’s home and is all in Shyriiwook. I mean completely in Wookiee! No subtitles! If you watch closely, you can figure out what they might be saying, but for the most part, I was staring at the screen thinking, “What the hell?! Is this whole thing going to be in Shyriiwook?!”
The rest of the show fits the genre of the times. In the 70s, variety shows were the “in thing”. Everyone had one – Sonny and Cher, Shields and Yarnel, The Osmonds – you name it, there was a variety show about it. So, it’s not surprising that The Star Wars Holiday Special would feature singing, acrobatics, comedy and more, all with that 70s psychedelic flare. In addition to members of the cast of Star Wars, the holiday special also features stars from music and television. Harvey Korman performs numerous comedy skits from a malfunctioning android showing Lumpy how to assemble a transmitter to a four-armed chef showing Malla how to cook a meal to a love-struck customer in the Mos Eisley Cantina. Art Carney appears as an outpost trader and friend to Chewbacca’s family. Idgie receives a gift which features Diahann Carroll as a fantasy woman crooning a love song to her favorite wookiee. Jefferson Starship appears, complete with glowing instruments, to dazzle Imperial Troopers and distract them from the goings on in Chewbacca’s home. The funniest skit throughout the show features Bea Arthur as a Mos Eisley Cantina bartender with a snappy repartee and a flare for song.
Perhaps the most memorable and groundbreaking segment of the show is an animated feature giving the world its first look at the bounty hunter Boba Fett. The animation was, for the most part, not very good, with the exception of Boba Fett. However, this marked the first Star Wars cartoon ever created for television. Just think about it – the first ancestor to the Clone Wars series airing on The Cartoon Network was a cartoon featured on a Star Wars variety special in the 70s. Boggles the mind!
As for the original cast member appearances, the best actor was Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca – all he had to do was wear that suit while sound effects were dubbed in for talking scenes. Harrison Ford looked hot in his role of Han Solo, but his lines pretty much sucked. The holiday special was filmed a very short time after Mark Hamill’s devastating car accident. He had some fairly nasty scars from reconstructive surgery that had not yet healed. Thus, we see a very heavily made up Luke Skywalker appear in a scene in which engine smoke blocks his face from view, and a very short Life Day Celebration scene where he is observed from afar. Anthony Daniels appears as C-3PO – brilliant acting on his part…well, same acting as in every other Star Wars film. He gets the same award as Peter Mayhew. James Earl Jones did some voice-overs for the film, speaking new lines for Darth Vader which were then dubbed over existing film excerpts from the original Star Wars movie. And Carrie Fisher…high as a kite Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia. Oh, poor Carrie Fisher, forced to sing the Life Day Celebration song based on the Star Wars original theme at the end of the movie. Yikes!
After watching this special for the third time, I couldn’t help but groan. No wonder why George Lucas attempted to buy all the masters for this show so it couldn’t be rebroadcast. Too bad he hadn’t counted on fans taping the thing when it originally aired. At least he can say that he had no real hand in the project – he didn’t write, produce or direct for the show…otherwise, it might have been better…or might not have taken place at all. I did notice that quite a bit of the Star Wars music was reused for the special. Something else I noticed – the view of Chewbacca’s home from afar seemed familiar to me. Upon checking the credits, I realized that I was correct in guessing that this was artist Ralph McQuarrie’s original artwork.
Watching The Star Wars Holiday Special thirty years after it first aired did elicit quite a few groans. But I did laugh once or twice. I was lucky enough to get a version in which all the commercials were left intact. It was nice to see those old commercials again. I even recognized some of the toys advertised as toys I played with as a kid. Yes, watching The Star Wars Holiday Special again was a trip down memory lane…a rather excruciating one and one I would only recommend to the most diehard fan out there.
Written by: Nathaniel Philbrick
Published By: Penguin Books
Reviewed by Dorothy Doremus
Ah, the tale of the first Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims, after the long journey from England, set foot on Plymouth Rock where they meet Squanto who befriended them. After which, they all sit and have a feast of turkey with all of the trimmings and give thanks. If this is your idea of how the first Thanksgiving was, you will be extremely disappointed.
Mayflower is far from your teachers’ story of a loving and peaceful holiday. It begins with the journey of the Pilgrims who left the shores of Holland in search of the Hudson Valley. Having discovered that religious freedom was out of reach in their own country, they chartered the Mayflower in hopes of finding that freedom in a new land. It took the better part of two months to reach the New World and most of the crew was sickening fast. Captain John Smith knew he was north of the Hudson Valley, but couldn’t wait to make landfall. He decided that getting the ship ashore was what needed to be done.
Once again, the Pilgrims were in peril. They didn’t have food and winter was fast approaching. They raided Indian storage piles and stole food and tools. But the stolen food was not enough to sustain the colony and half the population died in the first year.
Interestingly, I was always taught in school that Squanto was a friend of the Pilgrims who wished to make the rest of the Indian tribe their friends as well. In actuality, Squanto was a fraud. He was captured and sent to Spain and England as a slave and later returned to the colonies. Squanto was an interpreter for the English, but it was discovered that he was really pitting the two parties against one another.
Over the first fifty years, even with plotters such as Squanto, all was quite peaceful and then it all went horribly wrong. Some of the Indians began to adopt Christianity as a religion which didn’t sit well with the sachem. That was not the only think that caused problems – greed played a role as well.
As I read Mayflower, I foolishly found myself waiting for that feast. I mean, why would our history teachers ignore true history, preferring a sugarcoated version of the situation over facts? Well, this book does anything but sugarcoat things. It includes everything from Massasoit, the brave Indian leader to Benjamin Church’s killing of King Phillip. The book is a page turner and really makes you understand the interesting balance between cultures and why that balance was so fragile. I truly understand why this was a New York Times Bestseller and I will never look at the story of the Pilgrims through rose-colored glasses again.
Written by: Gail Rock
Published By: Bantam Books
Reviewed by Dorothy Doremus
One of my favorite things about any holiday is the memories and the traditions. Everyone can reminisce about a favorite food, music or a story. One of my favorite stories is called The Thanksgiving Treasure. It was my fourth grade teacher, Mr. Fitzgerald, who had us read it as an in-class assignment. However, I still find myself going back and re-reading the tale of Addie Mills many years later.
I love the innocence of this story and the kind-heartedness of the tale. It begins with Addie and her best friend Carla Mae, who are in search of flowers for their fall bouquets. Addie is curious about Old Man Renquist, who has been feuding with her father over a business deal gone bad. So, against her father’s instructions, she ventures onto Renquist’s property and the rest is history.
Addie and friends are studying about the first Thanksgiving in school. When her teacher explains that the Pilgrims invited their enemies, the Indians, to dinner in an effort to make friends, Addie comes up with a plot to turn their family’s arch-nemesis into a friend. By bringing Old Man Renquist Thanksgiving Dinner, it opens the two of them to a friendship.
This is really a quick read that lightens your heart to the true meaning of any holiday. Give of yourself and good things happen. Good things certainly happen for Addie, although bittersweet – it is a sand ending of sorts.
I first read The Thanksgiving Treasure in 1979. It’s almost 30 years later and I still love this book. If you have a fourth grader who also likes to read, I am sure they will love this story.
By Melissa Minners
Okay, admit it: how many of you have already started watching Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel? Alright, I’ll go first – yes, I’m addicted to Hallmark Christmas movies, even though they all have a similar format. Boy and girl meet and have no real interest in each other…or had an interest but lost that interest. Christmas planning ensues, usually complete with hot chocolate drinking, a Christmas festival, cookie baking, wreath making, tree decorating, gingerbread house erecting, etc. Suddenly boy and girl find interest in one another, but someone witnesses something they misunderstand and decides to leave. The other realizes what happened and goes chasing after them, explaining the misunderstanding and revealing their true feelings. And they lived happily ever after. Yes, I know, cheesy, but I can’t stop watching!
I think I may need some help.
By Melissa Minners
Okay, I’ll admit it. My name is Melissa Minners and I am addicted to pumpkin. This is one of my favorite times of the year for only one reason – I can get my pumpkin fix sated, for everywhere you turn there is a new and inventive way to infuse pumpkin flavor into food.
My pumpkin addiction began very early in life. As a child, I was allowed to stay up late to participate in the Thanksgiving ritual of baking. The pumpkin pies were my favorite baked goods to come out of those early years. As the years went by, whenever we didn’t have time to bake pies, we would buy them – Entenmann’s, Sara Lee, you name it, we ate it.
When Dunkin Donuts came out with the original pumpkin filled donut, I was in heaven. I’m taking about the original pumpkin filled donut, not the ones they sell now. This one was made using the apple pie donut shell and filling it with pumpkiny goodness. I would eat them by the bagful. I couldn’t get enough of them. Then, they were discontinued and I was heartbroken.
That is, until a short time later, when I found new and exciting ways to satisfy my pumpkin addiction. Pillsbury came out with a Pumpkin Quick Bread and I would buy the mix every time it appeared in the stores. I loved the smell of it while it baked in the oven and I would eat every crumb, barely sharing it with others.
As time passed, more pumpkin goodness hit the stores. Both Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts came out with Pumpkin Lattes. Dunkin Donuts came out with a pumpkin coffee that I love both hot or cold…and let’s not forget the Pumpkin Frappuccinos available at Starbucks – delectable. Dunkin also came out with a pumpkin spiced donut. Of course, it would follow that they would also carry pumpkin spice munchkins. They’re good, but not like that original pumpkin donut I miss so much. Even the new pumpkin pie donut doesn’t compare. Of course, Dunkin also sells pumpkin muffins and they get yummier every year.
Pop-Tarts came out with a pumpkin flavored Pop-Tart, but that wasn’t all that interesting – not enough pumpkin flavor either hot or cold. Eggo came out with a pumpkin waffle and I love them! They smell so good toasting and taste so delicious that I don’t need syrup or butter. I just eat them right out of the toaster.
For the sweet tooth, there’s pumpkin fudge, pumpkin pudding and pumpkin ice cream. Now, pumpkin fudge is good and pumpkin pudding is divine, but there is nothing better than Edy’s Pumpkin Ice Cream. I love it and have to have it every year. It’s Natasia Minners’ favorite treat.
Oh, and let me tell you what I found the other day! Pumpkin coffee cake! Thus far, I have only found it at one Dunkin Donuts, but I’m sure it will sell at more locations eventually. This is a pumpkin muffin taken to a whole new level!
To summarize, as a pumpkin addict, if I see something pumpkin flavored, I simply have to try it! There is no stopping me until I get my hands on it…I even tried pumpkin flavored M&Ms, which weren’t all that yummy when you consider how good M&Ms are, but for some reason, I just couldn’t put them down until I finished them.
Are you a pumpkin addict? If so, confess your pumpkin addiction to us. Share your confession and your favorite pumpkin treat, even your favorite pumpkin recipes…after all, one pumpkin addict to another, who couldn’t use another recipe for pumpkiny goodness!
Written By: Jeffery Deaver
Published By: Amazon Original Stories
Reviewed By: Melissa Minners
I love Jeffery Deaver novels, but when one doesn’t have time to read a whole novel, what does one do? Fortunately, Mr. Deaver has helped me out on that score. He also happens to write short stories that take me no time to polish off. The latest addition to my Deaver library: Cause of Death.
When Patience Addison is found dead in her car at the bottom of a cliff, it is presumed to have been an accident. After all, there was a dead deer found near the spot her car left the highway. Everyone, including her husband, Jon, is shocked by her death, but no one thinks it’s suspicious until a local detective asks Jon about Patience’s phone. It is then that Jon realizes her phone and laptop are both missing. And what about that suspicious guy at the funeral…the one who stood in the tree line with the dark suit and dark glasses who took off as soon as Jon noticed him?
The historian in Jon needs more information. After all, what is a historian, but an amateur detective sorting through fact and fiction to get to the truth. But as Jon begins to unravel the truth, he discovers things about his wife’s past that he was totally unaware of. Things that make him doubt his happy marriage. Things that, if he’s not careful, could end him up in jail…or worse.
Jeffery Deaver is the master of suspense. For a short story of about 90-plus pages, Cause of Death has so many twists and turns. There is no doubt that Patience Addison was killed, but who killed her? Was it a colleague, her husband, a former lover? This tale will leave you guessing until the very end, a very Deaver-esque thing to do, which is why I love reading his works!