Robert Kirby: What’s in your heart this Thanksgiving?

Robert Kirby

For various reasons — first being not to contract COVID-19 — Thanksgiving this year will be the smallest holiday gathering of my family on record.

Dinner will consist of my wife, me and possibly a couple of grandchildren from upstairs. Later, when the crowd has thinned out, cops might start dropping by.

I knew this would happen. Not the cops. I mean the thinning of family attendance at Thanksgiving. Cops or soldiers have almost always been part of our turkey dinners.

My daughter works for the Herriman Police Department and promised pie to the night watch guys. Ideally, there will be no need for them to act officially, though it would hardly be the first time if they did.

In the annals of our family history, there is what we refer to now as the “Meatless Thanksgiving.”

It was the Thanksgiving when a couple of uncles were arrested for fighting. It ruined dinner. It doesn’t take a master chef to say you can hit a guy in the head with a cooked turkey only so many times before it becomes inedible.

By the way, it’s also known as the “Thanksgiving that Aunt M. left Uncle H. for good.”

Mercifully, the pies went untouched that day. In my family, pie is a food group all in itself. “Meatless Thanksgiving” would be known as “Homicide Thanksgiving” if they had been damaged.

Anyway, Thanksgivings back in the day were usually huge affairs that included any relative within driving distance, assorted friends and co-workers. I recall one Thanksgiving when most of the people eating were in military uniforms.

Over the years, as the family grew and spread out, the gatherings became smaller. I can’t remember the last time there was an argument or screamed promises to never speak to someone again.

My oldest memories of Thanksgiving include the smell of cooking turkey, the Old Man sharpening knives, and Mom making sure everyone had a place to sit. There were times when the same Thanksgiving dinner was held in three rooms of our home.

Today, Bird Day is celebrated much more diplomatically. It’s a multinational event. My wife is Canadian. In the far north, they celebrate Thanksgiving in October, which is about the time she starts making pies for the true Thanksgiving — the American one.

Oh, shut up. In truth, the only true Thanksgiving is the one when people sit down to a meal with family members and express gratitude for what we have.

Although allegedly begun as a Christian event (along with some Native Americans and possibly a closet atheist or two), the truth is that Thanksgiving is for everyone.

Bird Day can be entirely secular. You don’t have to give thanks to God, Odin, Quetzalcoatl, Baal or any other deity. Thanks go to those we love and to whatever makes our lives bearable.

For example, gratitude can be expressed for having a job, a significant other, grandchildren, a warm place to sleep, and even just having most of your arms and legs.

Right now, my wife and a couple of daughters are in the kitchen gearing up for the big day. It will be a small celebration relative to previous ones. Fewer than a dozen people (not counting cops) will be at the table.

Listening to them mixing ingredients makes me realize the one thing I’ll be grateful for this Thursday.


Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.