For my family, the special significance of Thanksgiving dates to the Great Depression.
The year was 1933, and my dad was among the fortunate. A 1931 electrical engineering graduate, he was now employed with a southern Michigan utility company.
He and my mother had been engaged more than a year and were ready to marry. After all, it couldn't cost more for two to live together as separately, could it?
But Dad had no vacation days. He did have Thanksgiving Day off work.
They didn't traipse to the local justice of peace. Instead they made arrangements to return to Michigan State College, now University, where they met and courted while earning their bachelor's degrees.
To be exact, they chose the chapel of the nondenominational People's Church in East Lansing across the street from the campus.
It was 75 miles from Adrian, where Dad was working, to East Lansing. They drove first to Ohio, where Mother's sister was working. She and a brother were to be their witnesses.
There were no four-lane roads to East Lansing at the time. I don't know how long they were on the road. But their marriage, according to the newspaper clipping in Mother's diary, was performed at 8:30 p.m. that Wednesday by the Rev. C.N. McCune.
They returned that night to southern Michigan, celebrated Thanksgiving the following day at the home of Mom's other brother, and moved into their rented bungalow. It still had no power turned on, about which Mother wrote in the diary, "No lights. More fun! In candle light."
It's not clear from her entry the following day if Dad had to return to his job, though I suspect he did. She reported the power was connected, plumbing was fixed, and that a stove and dining suite arrived.
By the time I was preparing to marry, the Rev. McCune had retired but the chapel was available on the same November date, which in our case fell on the Friday following Thanksgiving.
And we had a similar dilemma to that of my parents.
We had returned that summer from two years in South America as Peace Corps volunteers and my husband to be had accrued no vacation time in his short time on the job in Montana as a Bureau of Indians Affairs forester.
His bosses agreed to give him Wednesday and Friday as well as Thanksgiving. He flew to Michigan, his parents and sister flew from Massachusetts and we shared the turkey dinner at my parents' home. We married the next day in the same People's Church chapel.
We had a longer honeymoon than my parents. We drove from Lansing to the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana in his Ford Fairlane.
Still another 30 years passed. Our daughter and son-in-law chose to exchange vows on the same late November date. She even considered People's Church, but all their friends and most of the family were in West Virginia, so they married in Charleston.
There's a bonus to sharing the anniversary date. We have never had any difficulty remembering it.
But the holiday has greater significance. Throughout my childhood and now as a parent, it signifies a call for the family to gather. Our children and their families live apart, just as my extended family did as I grew up.
Thanksgiving, except when snow interfered, meant a gathering of the seven cousins and their parents in my maternal grandparents' relatively small, second-floor apartment. My memory is of 10 adults at a dining table while we kids, including a cousin who was a center on the University of Michigan football team in the mid 1950s, squeezed around a couple card tables. It was tight. It was fun.
My parents are gone now, and our children and their families live in the Eastern Panhandle and Northern Pennsylvania. The drive across the pass can be iffy in winter. Rather the kids came up with an alternative — Thanksmas — complete with a tree decorated half in harvest and half in Christmas ornaments.
Weather permitting, we gather each November for food, early gifts and a great deal of gratitude.
Contact writer Evadna Bartlett at eva...@dailymail.com.