Mary Gauthier’s Thanksgiving at the Prison

One may tell from the prison setting that Mary Gauthier’s “Thanksgiving” is probably not a cheery holiday song.  But that does not make it any less beautiful.

The song, which appeared on Gauthier’s 2007 album Between Daylight And Dark, recounts the point of view of a child with a grandmother standing in line to visit someone in prison.

They make her take her winter coat off,
Then they frisk her again;
When they’re done she wipes their touch off her dress,
Stands tall and heads in.

Yes, “Thanksgiving” is a Thanksgiving song.  But it views the holiday from the perspective of the families of those in prison.  During this period of mass incarceration in the United States, we often forget about how prison affects the family members of those we lock away.

The song is set at Tallulah State Prison, which was once a notorious horrible prison for youths. In 2004, due to outcries from the community, the juvenile prison was shut down.

Mary Gauthier, who grew up in Louisiana, often reminds us of the common humanity that links us.  “Thanksgiving” is a wonderful song that tells a story you might not expect in a holiday song.  And if you listen closely, it might change you just a little bit.

It’s Thanksgiving at the prison, surrounded by families;
Road weary pilgrims who show up faithfully;
Even though it ain’t easy, even though it ain’t free;
Sometimes love ain’t easy, I guess love ain’t free.

What is your favorite song about Thanksgiving? Leave your two cents in the comments.

  • Billy on the Street Thanksgiving Parade
  • “I Thought Turkeys Could Fly”
  • “We’ve Got Another Holiday to Worry About”
  • William Shatner Wishes You a Safe Thanksgiving
  • Happy Thanksgiving!
  • (Some related Chimesfreedom posts.)

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