Thanks Dave - lol!!
The True Meaning of Thanksgiving
by David LeSueur
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Article Contributed on: 11/16/2009 3:51:12 PM
Every year about this time I like to remind my family of the True Meaning of Thanksgiving. No, I am not talking about the Pilgrims and the Indians in the 17 th Century. Rather, I am talking about a housewife and a milkman in Burbank, California in the 1960s.
Thanksgiving in Southern California does not feel like a Fall holiday. The temperature is more likely to be in the 80s than in the 50s. But I spent my childhood there and can attest that we had the same traditions as the rest of the country. For example, the day always began with my brothers and father sitting in front of the TV to watch the Lions play the Packers. When we were really young, after watching the game, we would put on our plastic football helmets and shoulder pads. Then we would throw the football around pretending we were Bill Wade and Jon Arnett and Del Shofner.
At some point we were old enough to play actual football games with other kids in the neighborhood. The street was our playing field and one year someone even painted little yard markers in it.The curb on either side was the out-of-bounds line, which meant the field was pretty narrow. Sometimes there was a car parked in the street and that made for some interesting play calls (Bill, you go down and out to the left, run around the blue car, jump over the bicycle, then go long - I'll fake it to you).
Mom's Thanksgiving Day was the same every year. She would get up at 4 am to put the turkey in the oven. She would go back to bed for a couple of hours, then get up again to start baking rolls, peeling potatoes and making the rest of the Thanksgiving meal. We usually ate at 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and then Mom and Dad and the other adults cleaned up the leftovers and did the dishes.
I never heard her complain about Thanksgiving. She genuinely liked cooking and all of the related work - except getting up at 4 a.m. "Can't you get someone else to get up and get the turkey started?" one of her friends asked. So one year she came up with a plan. She would prepare the turkey the night before, place it in the oven and set the oven to the right temperature. This was before oven timers so she still needed someone to get up and turn the oven on - a simple, but important task. We grew up watching Father Knows Best and Leave It To Beaver, so it is not surprising that she asked for help from the most dependable man she knew - our milkman.
There were four children in our family and we drank a lot of milk, so having a milkman was a necessary luxury. And our relationship with this particular milkman was such that he had a key to the house. Each Monday and Thursday, he came to the house early in the morning while we were all sleeping.He unlocked the door, brought the milk into the house, opened the refrigerator and put the milk inside. Since he was inside our kitchen at the right time of day, Mom thought he would be happy to help her on Thanksgiving morning. Mom wrote a note for him that said "Please turn on the oven. The temperature is already set." So that special Thanksgiving, Mom got to sleep in.
Over the years we have enhanced the story. The milkman didn't just turn the oven on, he got the turkey out of the refrigerator and placed it in the oven. In fact, he made the dressing and stuffed the turkey. And then he came back after dinner and helped us do the dishes!
This year I am thinking about having our grandchildren reenact the Festival of the Milkman. Matthew can dress up in white suit and a white hat and be the milkman. Trevor, Ryan and Sarah can pretend to sleep while the milkman walks up to the house with our milk, reaches into his pocket to get our key and then notices the note on the door. He reads it, unlocks the door and enters our house. He opens the refrigerator and places the milk inside.He walks past the kitchen table to the oven and dramatically turns it on. He leaves our house. Then our family wakes up to the wonderful smell of turkey. They come to the kitchen and are surprised to find the turkey cooking. The kids jump up and down with joy. Mom cries. It is a miracle.
The Thanksgiving Program will also give us a chance to explain to our grandchildren how dangerous it was to be a milkman. They drove in trucks with no seatbelts. They carried milk to each house (in breakable glass bottles) without wearing safety goggles or a helmet. They had no GPS to prevent them from getting lost, no cell phone to call for help in case of trouble.
It's amazing milkmen lived as long as they did.
David LeSueur lives with his wife Mary in Littleton, Colorado. Their milkman, who comes twice a week, does not have a key to their house.