Grandma’s 3 Thanksgiving Postcards: Red Leaf, Cheery Harvest, Shakespeare Quote

Before families went over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house, a postcard may have appeared in their mailbox to mark this grand American holiday of gratitude in the early 1900s.

Grandma Fanny Longenecker saved three of hers.

postcard1909thanksturkey

In this card dated 1909 a brilliant oak leaf, an acorn cup and a fan-tailed turkey displayed “Hearty Thanksgiving wishes” though the celebration could not have ended well for this turkey.

(Incidentally, no filters or other photographic enhancements were used on these antique cards. Their brilliance remains after 100+ years.)

 postcard1910cheerythanks

Again, in the card above postmarked 1910, edible and bucolic images warm the scene which included another cozy house by the roadside.

postcard1911thanksshakespeare

Someone had already begun using a nutcracker on the walnuts in this still life from 1911 with an expression of hope for a happy mealtime. The quote from Shakespeare’s Macbeth (Act iii, scene 4) is ironic: Macbeth and his wife, attempting to cover up their dastardly deed of killing King Duncan, host a dinner where the condemning ghost of Banquo is about to appear. Clearly, the postcard designer took this quote out of context.

Though no ghosts may appear during your Thanksgiving celebration, you may be saddened by the specter of empty seats around the table.

Again this year, there are empty chairs at our table too. Here’s one:

Now a fixture on our table: Place card from wedding of Mother's niece, Janet Metzler
Now a fixture on our table: Place card from the wedding of Mother’s niece, Janet Metzler Diem

Postcript

“Grah-ti-tood” is the title of my very first blog post published February 25, 2013. Although it was not Thanksgiving season then, I knew gratitude could be a theme that may thread itself through my postings. Only two former students and a church friend responded to this first attempt at blogging. You can read it here.

Curtis_GratitudeBk

Thank you for joining me in many posts since then. Our conversations here keep me going.

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” – G.K. Chesterton

Thanksgiving blessings with many happy memories!

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What Does Rockwell’s Painting Ask?

Did you make construction paper turkeys and buckled hats in elementary school? I know I did. We elementary school-ers dug our scissors into orange, red, brown, yellow to create Thanksgiving art. And then we looked at pretty framed pictures that have become American icons of gratitude.

Freedom from Want, Four Freedoms Series - Norman Rockwell Courtesy Wikipedia
Freedom from Want, Four Freedoms Series – Norman Rockwell Courtesy Wikipedia
The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914) Courtesy Wikipedia
The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914)
Courtesy Wikipedia

 

These pleasant scenes may trick us into thinking the world was a more peaceful place than it is now. However, the celebration has often been shadowed by discord and world war.

 

Conflict Coexists with Celebration

* The pilgrims fled religious persecution to find freedom in the new world. Though the scene above looks peaceful and full of plenty in 1621, many immigrants did not survive the winter.

* President Abraham Lincoln set aside the last Thursday in November 1863 during the dark days of the Civil War as a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

* President Franklin D. Roosevelt, just weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the US into World War II, signed a congressional bill in December 26, 1941 moving the date for Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday in November.

 

The True Story Behind Rockwell’s Painting

FDR was criticized for being too idealistic in his State of the Union address of January when he outlined his idea of the Four Freedoms: Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Worship, Freedom of Speech, and Freedom from Want.

Two years later, The Saturday Evening Post published essays on each of FDR’s 4 freedoms, each paired with a Norman Rockwell painting (February – March 1943)

 

Freedom from Want, Four Freedoms Series - Norman Rockwell Courtesy Wikipedia
Freedom from Want, Four Freedoms Series – Norman Rockwell Courtesy Wikipedia

 

Take another look at this painting. Three generations circle the table, the all-white nuclear family considered the ideal in 1943.

As Bob Duggan points out in his article for Thanksgiving 2013, if Rockwell were painting in this decade, surely the skin color would be more racially diverse. And, instead of a gathering of biologically-linked people, family may extend to include friends and neighbors of many creeds.

 

What is the Young Man Asking?

 thanksgivingdetailman

 

See the young man looking out of the setting to you, the viewer? His smiling eyes may be asking you to join and share the bounty spread out on the table – lots of protein, plenty of vegetables, and pumpkin pie, no doubt.

But is that all he is asking? Perhaps he is inviting you as onlooker (and possible guest) to participate in another kind of freedom: to free one another from all kinds of want beyond the physical — emotional, social, and even spiritual.

 

Your Turn

No doubt you are looking forward to a Thanksgiving gathering, either at your house or somewhere else. How can you help others to have something to be thankful for, finding a way to include sharing in your practice of thanksgiving?

That’s one way to smile back at the young man at the table.

 


Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.

– William Arthur Ward

Quote contributed by my friend Jenn, a Canadian blogger, who reminded me that Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October. Happy (belated) Thanksgiving greetings to all.

7 Things I’m Thankful For

My secret joys (and struggles) show up in my gratitude books. You can see some of them here. But my list this week has sprung from my 9-day trip to Pennsylvania to visit family and take care of Mother’s house in mid-November 2014.

In her devotional book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp begins with a chapter entitled Surprising Grace in which she discusses how she and her Farmer Husband “give thanks even when things look like a failure.” Or when one experiences loss.

This year Mother died, we’ve had to sell her beloved house and its contents, I’ve struggled with a motley crew of personal challenges, and still I give thanks:

  • Health – I have an odd muscular neck pain (yes, pain in my neck!) yet I went up and down 3 flights of stairs from attic to cellar dozens of times, no problem.
  • My sisters and brother – We sorted, boxed, laughed, cried, disagreed, but ultimately met the challenge on time.   MarianJeanMark
  • My Aunt Cecilia – She’ll be 100 years old in March, still going strong. We found Aunt Ceci cheerfully playing the Tumbling Blocks game on the computer beside her. “It keeps my mind sharp!” she laughs. A Mennonite preacher’s wife, Aunt Cecilia Metzler raised a family of five children on a Lancaster County farm.AuntCecilia
  • My Aunt Ruthie – The photo is fuzzy here, just like her memory. But after she viewed some of the movies she filmed in her 20s and 30s that appear on other blog posts (here and here) she smiles, “ These pictures really make my mind come alive.” RuthieLookingVideo
  • An heritage with spiritual depth – When my ancestors arrived in The New World, they brought with them the Holy Scriptures. This one, the Nuremberg Bible, is dated 1765.

BibleNuremberg

  • The memory of my Mother – When Mother died, she still had a current driver’s license, paid all of her bills by check, and kept appointments on her calendar. She sent birthday cards to all her children, grand-children, and great grand-children, represented by names penned into the blocks. She died on the 28th of July, a date we marked with a red asterisk.

MomCalendar

  • My family – This photo is six years old, taken when baby Ian no longer needed a breathing apparatus. Just so you know: our daughter Crista is blonde, Joel, dark-haired. With the older boys now 11 years old, we are due for an update!

Beaman_Dalton_Christmas Card_2008

Ann Voskamp continues by quoting the first reference in Scripture containing the word thanksgiving, mingling peace and gratitude:

And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD. If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil. With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread. 

Leviticus 7:11 – 13   ESV

My conclusion: Gratitude brings peace and ultimately joy.

Writer Voskamp concludes: ” . . . standing straight into wind is how to fly on His wings of grace.”


Finally, a song I remember from childhood from that seems appropriate for the season:

What are you grateful for? Join me in naming your blessings.