Monday, November 21, 2022

Over the River and Through the Wood


Lydia Maria Child (1802–1880) was an abolitionist, an activist for both women's and Native American rights, and an opponent of American expansion, as well as a journalist and author. She is probably best remembered, however, for her holiday poem "The New-England Boy's Song about Thanksgiving Day," which (as we all once memorized) famously begins Over the river and through the wood, To Grandfather's house we goOf course, for me as I fly from NY to CA this week for the Thanksgiving holiday, Thanksgiving is actually more like over the country and through the airThat said, Lydia Maria Child's famous poem continues to frame this dearest of distinctly American holidays, as it has so successfully since she first published it in 1844. 

Over the river and through the wood,
To Grandfather's house we go;
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
Through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river and through the woods,
To Grandfather's house away!
We would not stop for doll or top,
For 'tis Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river and through the woods,
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose
As over the ground we go.

Over the river and through the woods,
And straight through the barnyard gate;
We seem to go extremely slow,
It is so hard to wait!

Believe it or not, the full poem has another 8 stanzas! But I think we've gotten the point by now - that it takes some effort and can be a challenge to get home for Thanksgiving, but it is obviously well worth it! To quote the Perry Como song with which his annual Thanksgiving show always began: Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays.

"Home" for many Americans in our mobile and disconnected society may seem a somewhat elusive concept, endlessly redefined as needed. For Child, it was a traditional New England family house kept by Grandfather and Grandmother who made everyone feel at home. For many today, it might be a local church's "Thanksgiving Dinner" for seniors, creating at least a temporary "home" where none any longer exists, for those for whom the need to share a turkey with family, with friends, with someone remains deeply rooted. And, if those examples are but two ends of the Thanksgiving Dinner spectrum, there are a lot of traditional and innovative versions of "home" in-between. 

Photo"Thanksgiving Dinner," Norman Rockwell's famous illustration of Freedom From Want, part of Rockwell's Four Freedoms series, based on President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" State of the Union Address to Congress, January 6, 1941. 

For Perry Como's There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays, go to:

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