Years ago when I was a reporter, I worked on Thanksgiving.
All reporters in our newsroom had to sign up for one holiday a year. To avoid getting stuck with Christmas, and because I had to work the day after, I took Thanksgiving. The thought of driving for hours in heavy traffic to eat a meal, then to turn around and go back home, wasn’t very appetizing.
So began my tradition of untraditional Thanksgivings.
From the newsroom, I would usually head to a local homeless shelter to get my story. Most years, there were more volunteers than residents there. That was the only day of the year that happened.
I remember it being awkward that this heartwarming display of charity included a news crew (or two or three).
I’d sit down to talk to folks around the table and watch as they ate. As a reporter, I couldn’t accept anything of value from the public, so I couldn’t eat with them.
While normally that created a necessary boundary, on Thanksgiving it just felt strange.
I’d ask my questions and they’d graciously answer in between bites.
One year I had to divert and cover a shooting, so another reporter went out to the shelter to get the Thanksgiving feature. He was more senior than I and a really good writer.
His lede (I know that seems like a spelling error, but for some reason, the first paragraph of a newspaper story is spelled that way) has stuck with me all these years:
“A shelter is a good place to go on Thanksgiving to get a piece of pumpkin pie and a slice of life.”
Yes it is.
I didn’t go to the shelter every year. One Thanksgiving, I decided to write about the Turkey Hotline and interviewed the women who helped the hopeless, hungry folks who mostly had forgotten to thaw their turkeys.
I was an intern at a small paper in Springfield, Ohio, and I’m pretty sure my story included the cliche “talking turkey.”
Many of my memories have to do with the “Friendsgivings” I’ve had in lieu of family gatherings, like the time I discovered Hippie Edward at the Coop had nowhere to go on Thanksgiving while I was buying ingredients to make a pie. How could I not invite him?
My husband Rich, who was my boyfriend at the time, had already invited some fellow grad students from Ohio State. One was from Portugal and the other Italy. The dinner conversation was scrumptious! My pie? Not so much.
My best friend, who is a microbiologist, also had to work on some Thanksgivings at the hospital, where her shift ran from 3 to 11 p.m.
One year after finishing up at the paper, I headed to her house. We found frozen meatballs in her freezer, defrosted them in the microwave, and ate our “Thanksgiving dinner” standing up in her kitchen at midnight.
I’m thankful for our friendship, which is going on 46 years strong.
Tomorrow we’ll head to the home of friends in Philly who live in our neighborhood, a wonderful little corner of Philadelphia called Mt. Airy.
I will bring a pie (they’ve gotten better over the years), Rich will make his brussel sprouts (or is that brussels’ sprouts?) Where is my AP Stylebook when I need it? 🤔
And we will be thankful we have good friends who live nearby, don’t have to sit in traffic and will see our families soon for Christmas.
i’m lovin’ it.
I hope you have a really nice Thanksgiving, too.