By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District
Tomorrow is one of America’s great holidays. It is the day we slow down, spend time with those we love, enjoy a good meal together, and express thankfulness. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.
Looking back to the original reason for the holiday, Thanksgiving was born out of an expression of gratefulness for a bountiful harvest. The New World settlers and the local Native Americans joined together for a three-day celebration featuring feasting, singing and dancing.
More than a century and a half later, President Washington proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day as a time to rejoice in a young nation’s freedom and liberty. The holiday then fell out of favor but was reborn by President Lincoln in 1863 as a time to unite a country torn apart by civil war.
Today, Thanksgiving is a day set aside to reflect upon the many blessings we have in this state and country. To me, it especially means being thankful for family and understanding the importance of family.
The meaning of family was instilled in me at a young age. When I was in seventh grade, school let out early the Friday before Thanksgiving. That was Nov. 22, 1963 — the day President Kennedy was assassinated.
In the midst of that horrible tragedy, the family continued its preparations for Thanksgiving and Christmas. My mother and father maintained a sense of normalcy for us. Life goes on, and we had to carry on.
We grew stronger as a family during that time. That is why whenever I think back to Thanksgiving 1963, I do so with a mixture of sadness and thankfulness.
I have many other memories of Thanksgiving as a youth. Growing up in the city of Detroit at 18th and Buchanan, down by the old Tiger Stadium, we not only had the Eastern Market, but at that time we had the Western Market as well. The Western Market was a wholesale market, which meant, among other things, that you could buy a live turkey directly from farmers and dispatch it yourself.
I am thankful for traditional Thanksgiving meals with my mom, dad, brothers, sister, and our extended family of cousins, aunts and uncles.
These memories and Thanksgiving traditions have helped shape who I am today.
My wife Eileen and I strive to maintain some of these same Thanksgiving traditions with our own family — a task made more difficult with our two daughters and two grandchildren living out of state.
As the family evolves, the tradition evolves. But, as always, we try to focus on our many blessings, and give thanks.
Our wish to you this Thanksgiving is that amidst all the holiday hustle and bustle, you will be able to slow down, spend time with family and friends, and give thanks for your own blessings.
May you have a truly happy Thanksgiving.
This column first appeared in the Oakland Press. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.