The classic scene, appearing annually for many of us in childhood: The cardboard box high on a shelf labeled “THANKSGIVING” in magic marker. Maybe “AUTUMN,” if mom was a fancy type. In adulthood, the trusty Rubbermaid bin is the adapted image. “THANKSGIVING” Sharpie’d onto the plastic, or Sharpie’d onto masking tape then applied to the metallic-matte polyethylene, for those of us afraid of commitment. Inside? Essentially the same thing from decades ago. Plastic leaves in orange, yellow, red and brown. That wicker cornucopia. A fall wreath, to replace the summer wreath. A conglomerate of fake berries and miniature pumpkins that you don’t actually remember actually buying. And… twigs? Cinnamon scented twigs?
It is wonderful. It’s the precise assortment that hits the spot this time of year, every year. Who doesn’t love a good gourd? Variant dry corncobs? Woodland animal statuettes holding gourds and corncobs? In surveying the complete collection, a question comes to mind: Has it always been this way? Hasn’t the spread always been the same? Why?
One responsible, adult answer is that none of us “need” to update the Thanksgiving decor inventory. However, to put myself on the spot, did I ever need to update, say, my bottle opener? It still did the job, as do the squirrel figurines. I haven’t really, truly needed a new duvet cover since… I bought the last duvet cover or throw blanket or whatever I also didn’t need. But that’s fine, right? However, that alone does not explain why we all seem to use these classic tchotchkes well past their prime, while nearly everything else on and around us is subject to change with fleeting trends and general whims. Oh, and flash sales.
The other conclusion is easier, but amorphous. Nobody actually wants to change their holiday decorations. This isn’t to say that nobody’s bought any new fall decorations this year, last year, or the year before. If that were the case, you’d be able to find a reasonable parking spot outside of Pier 1 once in a while. But when’s the last time you scored an innovative mini pinecone-based potpourri assortment? Never? Same.
All holidays are family- and loved-one-centric. (Please don’t wrack your brain for ones that aren’t, it would be easy and I’d be embarrassed.) You could argue, though, that Thanksgiving takes the top spot on the list. Of course, the Native Americans who taught pilgrims to farm are always in our hearts every fourth Thursday in November, but our family and friends are in our hearts and our houses, and that’s what Thanksgiving nostalgia is all about. Fortunately, I don’t see that facet of fall changing, or Mama Ramey’s chipmunks-dressed-as-pilgrims salt and pepper shakers, or Aunt Sue’s artfully color-coordinated table settings. Thank goodness.
Naturally, this didn’t stop me from wondering if Martha Stewart herself would be aghast at my fraying wicker treasures. So I did the footwork for us. Don’t let those gorgeous flatlays fool you – she has the same dried cattails and tartan potholders as we do. Her tip about freezing cider in ice cube trays to use in apple-based cocktails, though? I took notes.