Like about everything in this modern world, Thanksgivings are very different to me than they were a thousand years ago. Of course that’s Charles Darwin arithmetic as I’m an only child in my 70s, so parents and uncles are long gone.
This particular Thanksgiving has the special exclamation point of being within days of the 50th anniversary of John Kennedy’s assassination. That sharing also encompasses specific dates in that both years saw turkey day fall on Nov. 28.
I was a big Kennedy fan, although slightly too young to vote when he was elected. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to politics back then, but the Cuban missile crisis got my attention. That’s when I officially joined his fan club.
I didn’t understand much about the cold war and strategic issues but knew a little something about cowboys. In the heroic vein of Matt Dillon, Kennedy positioned himself in the middle of the Atlantic “street” that ran to Cuba.
In my young mind, he stood poised with nuclear six-guns at the ready, daring Khrushchev to make his play. Back then, news reports kept us updated about soviet ships advancing toward the showdown. It was very real drama.
Finally, the bad guys stopped and turned around. In western vernacular they “took water.” Everybody — especially Otis Gardner — breathed a sigh of relief when Marshal Kennedy holstered his weapons and walked into the saloon to grab Miss Jacqueline.
That’s when Kennedy seemed larger than life, although history has watered down the perceptive mystique of those days. It seems there were some side-bet negotiations going on involving U.S. weapons in Turkey.
But even if the Soviets folding their hand was an international quid pro quo of some sort, our president came off in the public eye as a hero wearing a white hat. Although I recall Truman and Eisenhower around the fringes of my mind, John Kennedy switched on my political awareness light.
Sometimes I think it’d be nice to turn it back off. Nowadays Washington seems filled with noises from political rats squealing and scurrying every which way. I should stop watching them.
So 50 years ago this year, our Thanksgiving was a bit muted. I honestly don’t remember specifics but guarantee that all of us ate with one eye on the television.
Without Facebook, Twitter, cable or email, TV screens were the sole focal point of America’s eyes, the only source of real-time events. Walter Cronkite spent so much time in our living room he became part of the family. Maybe I should check to see if any Gardners were mentioned in his will.
Although Thanksgiving has changed over the years, one facet hasn’t: I’m continually more and more amazed at my good fortune and am truly thankful for uncountable blessings.
My wife Ann cooks the traditional bird and trimmings at Christmas, but we’ve changed this holiday. A few years ago we began a new family tradition exchanging turkey and dressing for lobster and shrimp salad.
The holiday is just as special, but now our Thanksgivings are on island time.
Otis Gardner’s column appears here weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.