Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Day of Thanksgiving: The Johnson Family Counts Its Blessings

One of the things for which I have always been grateful is old, educational film reels.  I feel so lucky to have gone through school at the tail-end of the era when teachers still wheeled the projector in from the A/V storage room and began the process of winding the beginning of the decades-old film from one reel to another.  The films were always sensationally-corny but as an avid lover of nostalgia (even at a young age) I'll never forget that combination of overwhelming thrill and terror experienced in the moments of countdown; would it be "Donald in Mathmagic Land"(good), Mr. Bungle in "Lunchroom Manners" (great), or, heaven forbid, "Our Changing Bodies" (shudder)?  In honor of America's oldest holiday tradition, I share with you a wonderfully-apropos film reel about family and gratitude, "A Day of Thanksgiving."

"A Day of Thanksgiving"

Listening to the Johnson family talk about the Thanksgiving that was "the best [they'd] ever had," I was struck by two things - one, that the children were completely unaware that the Thanksgiving Holiday was upon them until Susan read it in the newspaper (kids reading newspapers, cuh-mon..) and two, how closely the family's gratitude list reminded me of Norman Rockwell's series of paintings, "Four Freedoms."  I definitely count Norman Rockwell's artwork as a blessing in my life.  While I am no amasser of Rockwell collectible plates, I have always appreciated the warmth, humor, and humanity of his fine illustrations.

"Four Freedoms" - Norman Rockwell

I love the courage and faith and love captured in each picture.  While "Freedom from Want" tends to get the most face time at Thanksgiving, I believe that every "Freedom" is important in acknowledging the rights we enjoy in this country, the rights we often take for granted.

Freedom from Want
Did someone say, "Free public library?"  Tommy may appreciate
the well-written words of Jack London but he is especially grateful
for plenty of food, including extras like cookies & milk after school.

Freedom of Worship
Among her many blessings, like her clothes and her parents,
Susan was grateful for her ability to attend Sunday School.

Freedom of Speech
Mother, grateful for hot water, washing machines, the telephone,
a car, the safe birth of her children, dad's job, and American Democracy,
was probably most grateful for the freedom to meet friends and neighbors at
the backdoor for a good gab session on any subject, even Jane Jones' hat!

Freedom from Fear
With the very real threat of lurking fascists or gangsters,
Father is grateful that there is no fear in answering the
knock at the door (even if it is a bill collector...or more of mother's
darn friends who just can't stop talking about Jane Jones' hat). 

"A Day of Thanksgiving," and other instructional film reels of similar ilk, usually tend toward the melodramatic, the condescending, the banal.  Nevertheless, I think the simple messages of respect and gratitude are both timeless and quite-timely in a world plagued by "selfies."

In spite of Mr. Johnson's counsel that gratitude "isn't something you can write down like a grocery list," I will attempt to compile a brief inventory of those things for which I count myself thankful - keeping in mind that I've "got to feel it down deep before [I] can really be thankful for anything."

1. It may seem trite, but I am grateful for my family.  They are my best friends, my confidantes, and my reason for functioning (especially that little one, front and center).

The whole fam-damn-ily!

2. Little Tommy Tucker the Thanksgiving Squirrel

And Chi Chi the French Bulldog

3. wacky tacky!  It probably appears incredibly self-centered to be grateful for one's own blog but the support, friendship, and community that I found through blogging were an unexpected thrill.

4. wacky tacky!  No, there is not an echo in here; I am grateful for a world that is chock-a-block with whimsy, fun, energy, creativity, and inspiration.  I love adventure days and all the wild, wonderful, and weird roadside attractions that are available to the wacky tacky adventure team and to everyone!

The wacky tacky adventure team

5. A functioning body.  It might not be beautifully formed or full of grace, there may be a lot more of it than deemed fashionable, but, boy oh boy, I sure am glad that I can see, hear, type, sew, assist my friends and family, taste, and DANCE!!!

***no picture required here***

6. Feedback!  It is hackneyed amongst bloggers to express gratitude over comments but there is nothing better than to know there are "those wonderful people out there in the dark," reading (maybe even enjoying) our words.  Writing a blog is pleasurable work, but it is definitely work.  Understanding the joy that comes from receiving thoughtful comments, I will put forth a more concerted effort to spread that joy by commenting more often on the blogs that I love.  Thank you for your comments; I truly appreciate them!

There is a certain amount of delusional self-
importance required for writing this blog.
Please keep those comments coming!

7. Non-Thanksgiving dinners.  "Even the pilgrims had a feast; isn't that what Thanksgiving is for?"  Despite the Johnson kids' relish for "Turkey, and dressing, and pie, and cake, and fruit salad, and whipped cream, and cranberries," I find the Thanksgiving table to be a tad dull and overwrought.  I am, however, grateful for the relative abundance with which we live.  "No turkey for Thanksgiving?"  That's okay by me; let's have a salad bar or, better yet, Pineapple Upside-Down Loaf!

Well, it is most-assuredly abbreviated but this is my list for now.  I encourage everyone to follow the Johnson family's example and start "totin' up the common ordinary blessings that we have to be thankful for."  Just writing this short list has changed my attitude for the better and put me in the right spirit for our Thanksgiving festivities.

Americans might have the market cornered on turkey consumption but we certainly don't have it cornered on gratitude; because of this, I wish a "reel" Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!


Mr. Tiny


  1. Happy Thanksgiving to you Mr. Tiny! I remember those filmstrips - the sheer happiness that would fill the classroom knowing that the lights would dim - even though the subject might be dull. We would long to be the one who could click the next scene on the projector. Brings back some fun memories for me!

    1. Wasn't it the greatest? There are plenty of those films to be found on youtube but it was the dimmed lights and hum of the projector that really made it a magical experience.

  2. such a sweet post. i'm thankful for my friends out in blog land too!
    there is a norman rockwell exhibit at the art museum in nashville right now. i heard about it from some friends who were talking about how lame it was, but i can't WAIT to see it! i have always loved his work. we had a few prints on our walls when i was a kid.

    1. Thanks Rae!! I can't imagine how a NR exhibit could possibly be lame. I've always been in awe of his ability to capture moments in time. I honestly think he doesn't get enough credit as a fine artist.

  3. I just stumbled upon this blog since I read say it aint so and I just have to say I LOVE Norman Rockwell. He doesnt get the respect he deserves as an artist and one of my biggest regrets is I somehow missed the NYC showing of his work several years ago, tragedy. Also I agree that old educational reel films are a prize to be thankful for.

    1. Hiya Kate! Thanks for stopping by! We are big fans of Say It Ain't So over here and any friend of Rae's is a friend of ours. I'm so glad to know that Norman Rockwell is getting some appreciation; I've always been a fan and I even have some issues "Saturday Evening Post" with his art on the cover.

  4. excellent usage of the still from "Sunset Blvd."!

  5. Wow! I can't believe you were able to find a copy of that movie online! Watching old films really brings us back to a nostalgic era. It gives me that feeling of happy nostalgia as we look and reminisce some of the classes we had before where we sit around and watch our teacher prepare the projector. Seeing them again here on you blog makes me remember them all over again. Haha! There really is a lot to be thankful for, such as with regard to filmmaking. I am personally thankful that we now have film archives to preserve these treasures.
    Ruby Badcoe