Turning back the turkey timer: Cherished Thanksgiving memories
By Marv Kohlbeck
Reflecting on memorable Thanksgiving celebrations, the one that always seems to surface for me is the experience of spending a six-month 4-H youth exchange stay in Peru. The year was 1962, and my stay was from October through March.
During that assigned time I seemed to be on the move quite a bit as I lived with 11 different families. I relished the fact that I gained a wealth of family living experiences, which included families in the jungle, mountain region, and coastal area.
I looked forward to experiencing their customs, especially on holidays. According to the diary that I kept, Thanksgiving Day that year was Nov. 22. Unfortunately during that week I had a five-day lapse between two families and ended up staying with four Peace Corps guys who were working in the mountain city of Ayacucho. They had decent living quarters.
I will quote from my diary how Thanksgiving was spent that day. Luckily my handwriting is legible as I wrote the following statements in ink:
The fellows welcomed me, and I felt like being back in college. What a great feeling to settle briefly for a stay with fellow Americans. It did not come as a shock that they did not have hot water for showering. I have washed, shaved, and showered so often in cold water that it has not fazed me that much anymore.
After cleaning up the four of us fellows went to the home of Professor Don Burns, an American who teaches the Quechua language to the Peruvians at the University of Huemonga here in Ayacucho. It was Thanksgiving Day, and the Peace Corps fellows and I were invited along with Peruvian friends.
There were 17 of us looking forward to a Thanksgiving dinner. We had an excellent turkey dinner served by Burns’ wife and maids. The typical meal included all the trimmings, including cranberries. I took pictures of the event, truly a wonderful and memorable Thanksgiving I am certainly thankful for. I am sure that my friends back home are having a similar celebration. Others are deer hunting, but I’ll long remember this one.
We spent a few minutes after dinner going around the table to find out about other memorable Thanksgivings and where we were during those years. I mentioned Thanksgiving in Germany in 1955.
Straying from my diary, I do recall my military experience in Crailsheim, Germany, in 1955 when the custom was to have a complete turkey-and-all-the-trimmings-type meal prepared for all of the children and caretakers at an orphanage located a few miles from our camp. We would load all of the goodies in our military ambulances, and once we got to the orphanage we would mingle with the kids and then sit down and share the meal with them. It was a heartwarming experience indeed.
Here we are all these years later, and many of us, like in other parts of the world, look forward to the annual festive celebration that still contains the traditional menu of turkey, all of the trimmings, and a feeling of being stuffed from eating too much. The word “moderation” comes to mind and should also be considered at the Thanksgiving dinner table. May yours bear lasting memories too.