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Turkey Talk: A look at Thanksgiving’s Past

Words by: Monica Ellwood-Lowe


In honor of this Thanksgiving, we looked back at Thanksgiving moments captured while families completed our study.


Paper craft of a turkey for thanksgiving

Photo: Getty Images


In 2020, Thanksgiving was anything but normal. The presidential election had just completed, and the U.S. was still in and out of lockdowns. We looked at our transcripts of bath times in the weeks leading up to and after Thanksgiving to find out whether this came up in conversation.


We saw families seeking moments of normalcy during these uncertain times. Here’s a transcript from one family on November 16, 2020:


*MOT: did you have fun at the zoo?

*MOT: and the botanical gardens this weekend?

*MOT: and you got to go to Costco's for the first time in eight months

*MOT: more?

*MOT: since March

*MOT: probably the last time in a while

*MOT: cause they're gonna lock us down again probably

*MOT: in time for Thanksgiving


Even so, Thanksgiving was a moment families anticipated. The same family mentioned it again on November 23, 2020:


*MOT: it's almost Thanksgiving

*MOT: you gonna help grandma and I cook?

*MOT: we're gonna teach you how to cook Thanksgiving dinner


It seemed this family was already bringing the child into family traditions!


* * *


Thanksgiving was also a moment children looked back on. Though kids were only about two years old while completing our study, one child spontaneously remembered Thanksgiving two months later. It turned into a moment for mom and child to reflect on friends and family members. Here’s an excerpt from a different family’s transcript on January 7, 2021:


*MOT: mh hm, go swimming this way

*CHI: swimming this way!

*MOT: that's swimming this way!

*CHI: swim

*CHI: Katie Samantha

*MOT: oh, you love swimming with Katie and Samantha

*MOT: yeah

*MOT: That was so nice

*CHI: giving!

*MOT: and we do thanksgiving with them, yes?

*CHI: giving

*MOT: mh hm, that was also very nice

*CHI: thanksgiving!

*MOT: pretty soon you get to meet Matthew and Lauren and Ethan

*MOT: that's Katie

*MOT: and Matthew is Katie's brother

*MOT: you haven't met him yet

*MOT: and he has baby Ethan

*MOT: remember from the card that they sent?

*CHI: XXX card

*MOT: yeah, baby Ethan

*MOT: he's pretty big now too


* * *


Sometimes, though, bath time was simply fun and games—and turkeys. Here’s an excerpt from one last family on September 15, 2020:


*MOT: oh oh you turkey.

*CHI: oh woof woof woof.

*MOT: you're a turkey.

*MOT: come here I need a XXX.

*MOT: oop uh oh I knew that was gonna happen.

*MOT: uh oh we're okay we're okay.

*MOT: tell mama we shouldn't play chase in the bath.

*MOT: because I slipped yeah.

*MOT: okay come to mommy.


* * *


Wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving!



Speakers & Notes

*CHI = The child of focus in our study

*MOT = An adult female speaker presumed to be the child's mother

XXX = indecipherable speech

All names changed for anonymity.

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