Happy Thanksgiving

It’s a few minutes until Thanksgiving. I thought I’d stay up and watch the clock change. I’m sipping tea, listening to gentle music playing in the background.

I think it’s Bing Crosby, or maybe Nat King Cole. The volume is too low to tell. Either way, it sounds like 1948 in this living room.

Yesterday, my wife made a batch of cornbread and biscuits. She left them on top the refrigerator so they’d get good and dry before she crumbled them them into cornbread dressing.

There is a big debate between calling it “dressing” or “stuffing.” And while I am no authority on the matter, I can tell you this:

Once, I spent Thanksgiving at a buddy’s house, his mother was from West Virginia, and she served “stuffing.”

She cooked the entire feast without ever dropping the Winston cigarette that dangled from the corner of her mouth. And she must have had a few too many cups of holiday cheer because she accidentally shoved all her cornbread into a well-known orifice of the turkey’s body. I had never seen this done.

“What have you done to the dressing?” I asked her.

“Dressing?” she said, laughing, elbow-deep in a turkey’s butt. “This ain’t dressing, kid. It’s stuffing.”

You can imagine my surprise when just before serving the turkey, she rammed an extra-long spoon up the bird’s backend and announced, “This stuffing looks a little undercooked, but oh well.”

It was apple-pecan stuffing. Everybody ate some and a few hours later we all got deathly ill. And I don’t mean to get graphic here, but we were having projectile-like symptoms.

And that was the last time I ever ate salmonella-flavored West Virginia stuffing.

Anyway, I’m sorry I brought that up. Especially on Thanksgiving. What I meant to say was that I hope you have a great day. And I really mean that, I’m not just blowing smoke.

I love this holiday. The smells, the colors, the families trying to run each other down with their SUVs and make it look like self defense. The nervous breakdowns in the bathroom, the forced pleasantries among in-laws, and of course, the cornbread dressing. I love it all.

But when I was a kid, I did not like holidays. In fact, I hated them.

And that’s why I’m writing you. The thing is, for some people, holidays really stink. They are reminders of how everybody ELSE in the world has a nice, happy family, and how you have jack squat.

At least that’s how it was for my family during my childhood. After my father died in a pretty horrible way, people would invite us to spend holidays with them because they felt sorry for us. We would join them, but it was awful.

The only thing worse than being sad on Thanksgiving is being a charity case, sitting all alone on someone’s living room sofa.

But my story isn’t important here. What I’m saying is that there are lots of people who are like I was. People who hate Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Day. To them, this is the hardest part of the year.

You can’t always see these heartbroken people because they disguise themselves with happy faces that make them invisible. I know this because I grew up that way. I had a phony face for every occasion.

There’s the “We’re-doing-great-thanks-for-asking” face. There’s the “We’re-so-happy-we’re-practically-squatting-out-gold-bricks” face. And the “If-I-were-any-happier-I’d-be-in-the-nuthouse” face.

Lies. All lies.

So if you are lucky enough to have what could be loosely called a good life, I hope you look for these forlorn people. You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to invite them to move into your house. You don’t have to act all sympathetic and frowny faced.

But maybe you can sit beside them on a sofa, tell them a funny story, or try to get them to smile. Or if you are hard up for conversational topics, you can always talk about how your sister-in-law is crazier than a runover cat.

Unless, of course, the person on the sofa is actually your sister-in-law herself. In which case, you will have no choice but to talk about “The Bachelorette” because that is all she ever freaking talks about.

When I was a kid, the people who saved my life were quiet, meek people. They were old men who entertained me with magic tricks, or a guitar, or by teaching me corny jokes.

And it was because of these people that for a few hours on a holiday like this one, in an ordinary living room, I was temporarily not sad.

Because of them, I would listen to Bing Crosby, or maybe it was Nat King Cole, and I would let myself pretend, like everyone else does, that today was the greatest day of the calendar year. Even though there is no such thing. Not really.

A day is just a day. You can’t make it more than that no matter how hard you wish. No matter which fancy name you give it.

But then again, what if you can? What if today really is the best day in the history of the world?

And what if the coolest thing you and I could ever do upon this weary earth is not to be a big hero; or make lots of money; or live a long life; or travel the globe; or be the best in our field; or do something noteworthy; or be considered important; or unique; or successful? What if the greatest thing anyone could ever do is to simply to find some sad little heart, sitting all alone on a sofa, and make that heart un-sad?

Watch out for undercooked stuffing. Eat dressing instead.

Happy Thanksgiving.

30 comments

  1. Sandi. - November 28, 2019 7:12 am

    Hi Sean, and Happy Thanksgiving to you and Jamie. Holidays are indeed difficult times for many of us, but we all have something to be grateful for if we focus on positive things. Have a blessed, special holiday season.

    Reply
  2. grantburris - November 28, 2019 7:25 am

    Well said, Sean. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

    Reply
  3. Mimi - November 28, 2019 11:31 am

    I needed this. Happy Thanksgiving 🌻

    Reply
  4. Christine - November 28, 2019 11:44 am

    I was debating whether to stuff the bird or, for the first time ever in my history of Thanksgivings, bake the stuffing separately. Um, thanks for the graphic content. I’m starting a new tradition today.
    Happy Thanksgiving.

    Reply
  5. Ruthie Oliver - November 28, 2019 11:46 am

    Happy Thanksgiving, Sean. Have a wonderful day.

    Reply
  6. Jean - November 28, 2019 11:49 am

    Happy Thanksgiving Sean. I don’t do holidays anymore. Nobody of my family left so I just enjoy the day off. Sometimes I cook for me but most times not but you can bet there would be DRESSING on my table. None of that stuff shoved up a turkey behind! Enjoy your day!

    Reply
  7. Leigh Amiot - November 28, 2019 11:53 am

    Sean,

    You had me squashing laughter (my husband is still asleep) and then wiping tears from my eyes in a matter of a couple of minutes. While food poisoning is no laughing matter, you managed to make it funny.

    My father died on Veterans Day 1974, and of course our family was still reeling from that come Thanksgiving, December 20th, his birthday, then December 24th, when our family opened presents because our mother was a nurse, often worked on Christmas Day. Our family, minus Daddy, was standing by the Christmas tree, and true to your story, I was trying to act happy about a gold Huffy bicycle which was there for me. My oldest brother was married, he, a grown man, ran out of the house crying, Mom after him to console her son while she grieved the loss of her husband.

    There is no going around grief; it must be gone through.

    It’s been 45 years, and the intensity of the haunting of those memories vary each year. Daddy loved Christmas. He put up lights on the front of the house, a big plastic lit Santa on the front porch, bought lots of presents for us four because he had little to none when he was a kid. I always think of him more often during this season.

    This morning I am thankful I have the promise of seeing him again in heaven. Daddy believed in Jesus; I do, too.

    Reply
  8. Jennifer Hill - November 28, 2019 11:58 am

    I look forward to seeing your name in my email EVERY morning. Some mornings it’s like you wrote just for me, Thank You! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. 🦃❤️

    Reply
  9. Sharon - November 28, 2019 12:07 pm

    Happy Thanksgiving Sean. Please remember you are loved. On the happiest days and the sad days. I found a sad little soul 20 years ago and she found a sad, older soul and as a result, I have a Missouri family along with my Kentucky family. God bless you and yours.

    Reply
  10. Ginger Smith - November 28, 2019 1:33 pm

    Happy Thanksgiving! No, no stuffing! And NO sugar in your cornbread, folks! Act like you know what you’re doing!

    Reply
  11. Tommy - November 28, 2019 2:01 pm

    I remember a kind of loneliness, but it was as an adult. Grew up dairy farming and truly loved it but holidays weren’t so much. Staying on the farm and working all day like every other day . . .but that was the life i chose, i was blessed and i miss it til this day. Hope you, Jamie (which is the name of one of my granddaughters, btw) & all your fandom have a tremendously blessed day. And don’t forget to be Thankful!

    Reply
  12. CW - November 28, 2019 2:36 pm

    Leigh, I’m right there with you. My dad passed on Dec. 23 and was buried on Dec. 26, 18 years ago. My beloved husband passed in January, 10 years ago, on my granddaughter’s 6th birthday. For years after she would go sit in his chair for hours and “talk to Papa”. They had a special bond and, yes, I believe they had amazing conversations. This Thanksgiving I have a bad cold and have declined all dinner invitations. I will miss the company, but not having to put on one of those faces Sean described.

    Reply
  13. Barbara Zuleski - November 28, 2019 2:42 pm

    For me it was my great uncle, Emerald, sitting beside me on a scratchy horsehair sofa, teaching me how to tie sailing knots…. one of the best memories ever. Happy Thanksgiving..

    Reply
  14. Phil S. - November 28, 2019 2:56 pm

    And the same to you and yours (Gomer Pyle). Thanks for your message today, Sean. Suggested supportive reading: Hidden Agenda – Dropping the Masks That Keep Us Apart, by Rev. Steve Brown, who, by the way, lives in your home state. Its about taking off our masks and revealing who we really are, win or lose. That’s what God wants. In the immortal words of the late Jerry Clower, “Be Yoself!”

    Reply
  15. Bobbie - November 28, 2019 3:04 pm

    Sean, you can always somehow offset the sad with humor. You are wise beyond your years…some never realize or acknowledge these things you’ve learned, mostly due to the loss of your dad so early in life. My story is similar to yours…none of us are unique to loss and sadness but it’s what we learn from these experiences. I write some myself and I can read in your words how much it helps you to write. You have a very special gift and more special is that you share it with us, your friends. God bless you today. May He give you an extra dose of ‘happy’ today ….real Deep down happy, not that phony face we often show to cover up true feelings…I call it ‘the mask’
    Have a wonderful day with Jamie and family. Being born and bred “Southern” I have only once had stuffing, made by a former New York son in law, That was it for me. My cornbread is all mixed up in the kitchen, waiting for the drippings, then to go in a pan, not that other place you mentioned😮.
    My prayer today is that we rise above the pettiness and old hurts, be forgiving and kind to one another.
    Have an awesomely blessed Thanksgiving!!

    Reply
  16. Edna B. - November 28, 2019 3:30 pm

    Happy Thanksgiving to you, Jamie and the fur babies. Hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  17. Landa - November 28, 2019 4:01 pm

    Love it!

    Reply
  18. Shelton A. - November 28, 2019 4:15 pm

    Good stuff, Sean, I will forever more fear stuffing. Thanks, because I used to like it. LOL!!

    Reply
  19. Karen Good - November 28, 2019 4:59 pm

    On this day of giving Thanks, I am thankful for you and the smiles you bring to my soul ! Have a great day, hopefully surrounded by the things you are most grateful for ! (Sorry about the dangling participle 🤷‍♀️ It’s how we talk 😉)

    Reply
  20. lfry1220 - November 28, 2019 5:56 pm

    Love you Sean Dietrich!! And I am a “dressing” person.

    Reply
  21. Barbara Barnes - November 28, 2019 9:11 pm

    Thanks for being the person on the virtual couch who shared words to make me smile, and think. Happy Turkey Day!

    Reply
  22. Leigh Amiot - November 28, 2019 11:46 pm

    CW, my heart goes out to you. So sorry you aren’t feeling well.
    I hope your granddaughter remembers her Papa when he was alive and their conversations afterward.

    Reply
  23. Connie Havard Ryland - November 29, 2019 1:22 am

    Happy Thanksgiving Sean. I hope you are lots I’d dressing and other goodies. We had a houseful of people and plenty of food, and even tho it was our first holiday without my mom, it was still a day of gratitude. Love and hugs.

    Reply
  24. Barbara Knight - November 29, 2019 2:00 am

    I use to be a stuffing person but the horror stories of salmonella made me a dressing person years ago. As of lately I’ve measured the tempture of everything I cook. This year I’ve also skipped Romain lettuce and eaten more pie instead. Thank you for spreading the word. Oh and don’t eat the cake Or cookie batter with raw eggs in it.

    Reply
  25. Bud Carroll - November 29, 2019 2:53 am

    A delightful old Chinese friend born and reared in NYC but lived in HK most of his life, loved to tell his “dressing” story. Each year his Northern China wife made dressing. He always ate three helpings and described them as: first helping was dressing; 2nd helping filling; 3rd helping stuffing. All this followed by a roaring laugh, “Isn’t that great?” It was.

    Reply
  26. Dana Key - November 29, 2019 5:17 pm

    Thank you for all the great stories! It is dressing and will forever be dressing! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

    Reply
  27. Tiffany L Cadenhead - November 29, 2019 5:17 pm

    Sean, you know how to get to the heart of the matter. Bless you.

    Reply
  28. Pat - November 29, 2019 11:50 pm

    Being a southern girl, I must say I have nevah eaten, or been served for that matter, stuffing. How, just how could you get 4 corners of crispy stuffing? We would fight for a corner of dressing!

    Reply
  29. Linda Moon - November 30, 2019 12:37 am

    I like the sounds of 1948, which includes my very first one. It was a wonderful year. As usual,our family had a better-than-great day on Thanksgiving…in spite of some brokenness. Lots of hearts sat on some sofas yesterday. We always make each other feel un-sad because of the love and laughter among the human and canine family members who gather each year to Give Thanks. And the DRESSING one of us makes EVERY THANKSGIVING is always perfect! My comment is one day after Thanksgiving, so I hope you, Jamie , Otis and Thelma Lou had a HAPPY THANKSGIVING, too!!

    Reply
  30. Robert Chiles - December 1, 2019 1:35 am

    I always fix oyster pie, although some call it oyster dressing. My favorite part of Thanksgiving- no, actually my favorite part is cooking all morning with the rest of the family.

    Reply

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