A Mountain Reflection: Thanksgiving is for Families

November 23, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

 (Rob Melnychuk)
(Rob Melnychuk)
The painting's subject is utterly familiar to American families.

The moment portrayed in Norman Rockwell's Freedom from Want is rich and familiar, as if the artist paused life in midstream and left us longing for a seat at the table (and, of course, a piece of that turkey. …“Mind putting a little gravy on it, please? Thank you, ma'am”).

The more I look, the more I'm drawn, and I'm certain I hear the laughter of the ladies, young and old, and the din of conversation rising pleasantly in volume as gaps in life are closed between family members eager to connect.

Freedom from Want is part of a 1943 series called the Four Freedoms, based on President Franklin Roosevelt's January 1941 congressional address, warning of the threat from World War II-era dictators.

There is something so down to earth and accessible about Rockwell's paintings. Often portraying moments in daily life, they cause the viewer to recall his or her own experiences and emotions, creating instant, personal understandings. And that, my friend, is a rare thing.

When I was a wee lad, my attitude toward Thanksgiving was “Alright! Christmas is just around the corner, and it has presents!” Don't get me wrong, the food was pretty good, and I needed the fuel for that front-yard tackle football game played later in the day, where I dirtied the knees of dress pants sliding into piles of crunchy autumn leaves (often to find that pine cones nest there, and bite when disturbed).

But smearing off lipstick-heavy kisses from adoring relatives was not my bag, and even worse was the dreaded licking-the-napkin-to-wipe-that-stain-off-your-face encounter with grandma (often followed by a lipstick kiss—a yucky double whammy).

But as with so many things in life, getting older helps me appreciate more my parents, grandparents, and family members, their experiences and subsequent wisdom, and the values they held (and hold) dear.

Thanksgiving is made for family. It is a grand version of the family dinner, where a good meal with good people brings the closeness and warmth that only a family can bring.

An aunt and her goofiness, the funny laugh of that uncle or cousin, the picky eater meticulously segregating a crowded plate, a little niece or nephew showing off a turkey drawing that looks remarkably like a hand, young, old and in-between together, every gesture, word, and look framed by a deep connection to each other, cemented by a human life's beautiful (and trying) experiences.

And sometimes, after the games are put away, moments relived, and old stories retold to fits of red-faced, stop-it-I-can't-breathe laughter, there is a pause. For a brief, quiet moment we say everything with only shared looks, realizing the bond that links us together goes much deeper, beyond words, or even full understanding.

I don't know the details—and don't really need to—but in those moments it feels like we're old souls that have traveled time together, sharing lifetimes of experience while trying to understand the "What?" and “Why?,” the answer all fuzzy and just out of reach.

We've traveled the journey and yet here we are, together, in this moment, this time, this place.

There is nothing more to say, nor does it need to be said. The look we exchange says it all.

And with that said: Happy Thanksgiving.


Jim Fogarty lives in the High Rockies of Colorado, and can be reached at jim.fogarty@epochtimes.com

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.