Thanksgiving: Sharing a Priceless Gift
Thanksgiving Day is one of the most important days of the year for my family. All of my mother’s relatives come over to spend the afternoon and evening with my parents, brother, and me. Every one of my Thanksgivings has been at my parents’ house, and the flow of the day is the same every year. There is a level of comfort in being in my own house and having an idea of what to expect, but it can still be a stressful day. When I start to feel anxious, I turn to Fred’s words for comfort and assurance that my ambivalence–feeling excited and worried at the same time–is normal and nothing to feel guilty about.
There are many sources in the Fred Rogers Archive for researchers to consult about how to help children handle the holiday season. November and December might be two of the most difficult months of the year for parents to navigate, so Fred wrote about that time period in many publications. We house books, magazine articles, and essays that focus on the holidays. These writings offer realities for parents to consider, such as “Most young children are not good at being gracious receivers,” and “Family dinners can be very long for a child!” Although parents may long for Thanksgiving to be a perfect day, they might have to deal with tears or temper tantrums. Fred reminds us that it is those difficult times when children “need our ear, our empathy, and our honesty” more than the food and gifts that we place importance on during the holidays.
It’s the idea of longing for a perfect day that is especially poignant to me. The holidays are so significant to us that we try to make them grander each year. “Let’s make this Thanksgiving even better than last year!” we are often saying to each other in my house as we decorate and prepare the menu for the big day. But when I think back on Thanksgivings that were my favorites, they were the ones when each of my relatives were able to join us—no one had the flu or had to go to somewhere else for dinner. It really is not the variations in the table settings from year to year or the different methods of preparing potatoes that stand out. It is the conversations and laughs that I share with my relatives that stick out in my mind. I only see them twice a year, and we always have a lot of catching up to do.
Eight of my relatives are younger than me. Thanksgiving is the day when I get to see how much they have grown. They were toddlers when I was a teenager, and I had several difficult years when I was in charge of entertaining them for the day. At that point in time, I really could have used Fred’s advice on being with children on special days. Children may feel overwhelmed by the festivities. They should have a place of their own to retreat to when they become too stressed. We had a number of Thanksgivings when we dealt with tears, meltdowns, and fights, but the children are all grown now. Every single one of them is doing well in college or high school, and one even has a new baby of her own.
Even though I am not a parent, I’m appreciative of Fred’s words in Mister Rogers Talks With Parents, “We parents are the holders of a priceless gift, a gift we received from countless generations we never knew, a gift that only we now possess and only we can give to our children.” Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate the old and new generations. My Thanksgiving wish is for all of us to be able to appreciate being with our families. Even though our holidays will not be perfect, we can be grateful for the good we can find in the day.
Emily Uhrin is the Fred Rogers Center Archivist, who has worked with Fred’s collection for more than 12 years. She is also the owner of Grey, pictured above, at the Uhrin family Thanksgiving.