Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and right now I’m procrastinating cooking and baking for it because, unlike most people who blog about Thanksgiving, I don’t enjoy cooking. I don’t enjoy cooking under the best of circumstances, and this day strikes me as a good opportunity for performance anxiety.
So, I’m thankful to my California friends, and especially to their friends who invited us along with our friends to their house without having met us, because we are “Thanksgiving Orphans:” too far away from family for us to visit them or them to visit us. (We’ll see family at Christmas.) For people like me, who don’t mind making a little persimmon bread, salad, or chocolate truffles, but who are just as happy to take a pass on cooking roast turkey, stuffing, and/or marshmallow-covered orange potatoes, Thanksgiving works best as a potluck anyway.
So, when Fimnora at the Quantum Hermit invited people to share their favorite Thanksgiving music, that seemed much more my speed. Two songs immediately came to mind, and they both have to do with church.
Back in Massachusetts, where I’ve spent a large portion of the last 17 Thanksgivings, I attended the church that could possibly be said to be the most closely associated with the iconic Thanksgiving song, “Over the River and Through the Woods.” This song was written by Lydia Maria Child while her brother, Convers Francis, was the pastor at First Parish Watertown. The song describes a route that Lydia took to visit her grandfather, who lived near the Mystic River in Medford. That house still stands, and can be seen in this New England Folklore Blog entry.
Lydia Maria Child may be famous for writing this song, but she is also justifiably remembered as an abolitionist, feminist, and crusader for social justice. In UU World magazine, Heather Beasley Doyle writes:
Child’s belief in “equality and fairness toward everyone” underpinned her work . . .. Though Child never officially joined a church, she “was in Unitarian circles” . . . As a Unitarian minister, Convers brought spiritually inclined thinkers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson into Child’s sphere, and Margaret Fuller became a close friend.
More than 150 years later, the Christmas pageants at First Parish Watertown would have the following scene, honoring the church’s history: a lady in a big Mother Ginger-type hoopskirt (usually one of the mothers) would stand in the doorway to the church sanctuary, and little kids dressed as woodland animals (or at least some type of animal–my [now 16-year-old] daughter is seen here wearing a “Magenta from Blues Clues” Halloween costume) would come out from under the skirt and run around the church, going “over the river and through the woods.”
I enjoy this song, and the memories, but at the same time it seems more like a holiday TV special than a real thing. Even when I lived in Massachusetts, my family lived a lot further away than over one river and through some woods. It was an 8-hour drive west on I-90 to grandmother’s house. Now it’s more like “Over the continent and through the air.” Even when I was a kid, Charlie Brown pointed out that his grandmother lives in condominium. And we laughed with recognition.
Several years later, the children’s choir at this same church sang the song, “Albuquerque Turkey” as part of the Thanksgiving service. I helped the kids learn the song, and I was in the audience when it was sung. The lyrics I remember go like this (sung to the tune of “Darling Clementine”):
Albuquerque is a turkey
And he’s feathered and he’s fine
And he wobbles and he gobbles
And he’s absolutely mine.
He’s the best pet, that you can get
Better than a dog or cat
He’s my Albuquerque turkey
And I’m awfully proud of that!
He once told me, very frankly,
He would rather be my pet.
Than the main course at my dinner
And I told him not to fret.
Now my Albuquerque turkey
Is so happy in his bed,
‘Cause for our Thanksgiving dinner
We had egg foo young instead!
I looked far and wide for this version on YouTube, and have not found it.
So instead, here’s another one. It has good instrumentation (I may even hear a fiddle in there!), and has also added the “gobble gobble get” chorus, which is new to me, but seems popular and can be found in several online versions.
Apparently, to keep Albuquerque alive, some families have had Mac-and-Cheese or pizza-pizza instead. I personally think that Egg Foo Young is the best; it’s what I’d most like to eat instead.