For many years, I have had a negative attitude about the Thanksgiving holiday, and for very good reasons.
They’re all work related, and this year was no exception. Thanksgiving is the busiest time of year for newspapers because it’s the busiest time of year for shopping. The businesses who want you to come see them on Black Friday load us up with circulars.
In the 1980s and 1990s, when all I had to worry about was getting the news pages done, Thanksgiving meant a lot of extra pages. It also meant preparing two editions on the day before Thanksgiving — one to be delivered by carriers that day, and the other one on Thanksgiving morning.
It was a real pain, and I missed quite a few of those deadlines, but we always got it done. That all changed last year when we switched to mail delivery, which meant there would no longer be a Thanksgiving Day paper.
So now the big rush in the building is Tuesday night, when we are loading all the circulars into the Wednesday edition. I figure that gives people an extra day to decide which bargains to chase the hardest.
Making things different this year is the addition of a new print customer, the Hammond Daily Star. Like McComb, Hammond produces a paper five days a week, Tuesdays through Saturdays. They just switched to mail delivery a few months ago.
Whatever the similarities between the two papers, it ends at Thanksgiving: The Enterprise-Journal had 12 inserts in Wednesday’s paper. The Daily Star had an astonishing 25.
Handling that workload required a bit of creativity, with a dash of panic at times. We wound up assembling their packet of 25 circulars a week in advance, and then moved on to 10- and 12-circular packages for the Enterprise-Journal and two other customers in Laurel and Hattiesburg.
Even so, getting all four papers out the door in one night was overload, and about 15 of us were in the mailroom until the Enterprise-Journal was finished at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.
After carrying bundles of inserts for several hours, I was worn out, and I distinctly remember sitting down for a moment toward the end of the night and thinking, “I positively hate Thanksgiving.”
Which is not quite accurate. I like the holiday itself because my family gets together with a bunch of my relatives in New Orleans.
The mailroom work was a complete pain that took longer than I thought it would. But on the bright side, lots of people pitched in to get the job done, and we figured out how to handle a supersized new project.
Tuesday night would have gone a lot more smoothly with one easy change: Print the Wednesday Enterprise-Journal at noon instead of 6 p.m. Which we will do next year, completing assembly in the afternoon and giving us more time to put together the papers for Laurel, Hattiesburg and Hammond.
I could go on about the demands of Thanksgiving at any newspaper. But pouting is no fun, so I am pleased to report that the actual holiday itself was great. I loved it.
Newlyweds Audrey and Zach came in from Memphis on Wednesday night, and the four of us drove down to Metairie, La., Thursday morning for our annual get-together with my cousin Tom Leonhard and his extended family.
This year’s gathering was one of the best, largely because the kids are young adults and most entertaining.
Our son John, at 30, is the oldest of the bunch. My brother Patrick’s daughter Katerina is the youngest, at 17. All told, there were nine of these young cousins — plus Zach and Thomas’ girlfriend Kayla — together on Thursday for the second time in three weeks, since they all had been in McComb for Audrey’s wedding.
They all get along, and it will be fun to see how the population of our Thanksgiving evolves in the years to come as this generation adds its own set of spouses and children.
Meanwhile, there was the Saints game that night. Big win against the Hated Falcons! Most of the kids ignored the game to banter on the back patio, while the adults were glued to the TV.
I shepherded Mary Ann, Audrey and Zach to the car at halftime and watched the second half at home, having recorded the game.
No other day gives me such highs and lows. So Thanksgiving has a new name for me: The Love/Hate Holiday.