Ruth Bass: Many thanks, plus a few no thank you's

Monday November 19, 2012

Ruth Bass: Many thanks, plus a few no thank you's


Historians argue about the origin of the term "blue laws," sometimes linking it to the cover of the book they were printed in and other times referring to the elitist blue bloods and their concern about the behavior of common folk.

Whatever the name ancestry, the laws originated in the 17th century before the United States was the United States, fathered mainly by Congregationalist colonials who wanted strict rules of behavior for their Sabbath. Many of those puritanical regulations have fallen by the wayside, but not the Mass achusetts state law that extended blue laws to Thanksgiving.

And thus, while shoppers in many places across the country will work off their Thanksgiving feasting by storming their big box stores for bargains, commerce will wait until after midnight in Massachusetts.

We give thanks for this blue law survival, which means people can wait until at least midnight on their family-oriented holiday before they don their working shoes and take their places.

And it stems the tide on commercialization of holidays - Thanksgiving has managed to hold its own against the surge better than most, including the one in which George Washington appears to be selling cars.

We are not thankful for stores that insist their workers report on Thanksgiving Day. It will probably just lower their profits on Black Friday.

We have, especially this year in New England, so many other things to be thankful for. Even as we ache for the hundreds who lost their homes, we are thankful that we were spared the worst. We dealt with lost beaches, landscapes and trees, plus power outages, but most of what was destroyed did not involve homes, furniture, family photo albums and the irreplaceable possessions of a lifetime.

We are thankful for the generosity that emerges instantly when people are in trouble, from the couple in Lanesboro who sent truckloads to disaster areas, to the Linus Project, to the American Red Cross and to Occupy Sandy, whose web site provides a way to send supplies via Amazon.

We are thankful for our families and for the pleasure of watching six grandchildren emerge as people with sparkle and thoughtfulness, humans who already know they're lucky and are ready to share.

We are thankful for election results that indicate Americans know taxes are not evil, that the work of government is not free and that those who have must make a greater effort for those who have not. We are not thankful for the undercurrent of racism in that election - a prejudice against not only the president but also the millions of immigrants of color who sneaked in or were brought here to find jobs and who now have established lives in our midst.

We are thankful for the Berkshires, what we consider our unique corner of the world, and for the people who spend their working lives preserving the air, the greenness and the vistas that are its natural heritage.

We are not thankful for the ubiquitous and anonymous critics of all that we have, the people who attack their fellow citizens with venom and think they have a right to do that under a cute assumed name or with no name at all.

We are thankful for those who work on Thanksgiving and all the nights and days of the year to keep us safe and healthy - fire fighters, police officers, nurses, EMTs, ambulance drivers, the military, utility linemen and, in winter, snow plow drivers.

We are thankful to the Richmond Consolidated School for its lunch honoring war veterans and for our daughters' annual phone call thanking their father for "saving civilization as we know it." We are thankful that Thanksgiving this week will be at our son's house so we don't have to worry about menus and whether we have enough potatoes - just the pies.

Ruth Bass is a free-lance writer who lives in Richmond. Her website is


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