Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I could not be happier. This is without a doubt my favorite holiday. I like it because it gives me the opportunity to be with my favorite people, to reflect on my great good fortune, and to start drinking before noon. Of course, I kid — no way I’m getting out of bed that early on a day off.
For those of you who are new to these shores, please allow me: Thanksgiving is our annual celebration by which we give thanks (duh) for our blessings, and also for the grace of the indigenous people of this continent who saved our ill-prepared forebears from starving. Over the next couple of centuries we showed our gratitude by killing most of them, and giving the survivors smallpox, alcoholism, and the reservation. Small wonder the holiday was originally known to Native Americans as “I Really Don’t Like The Looks of These Dudes Day.”
Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to be with family and loved ones (I nearly said family or loved ones — paging Dr. Freud!) In years past my wife and I would hit the road and head to Oklahoma to see family.
On a good day this trip takes about eight hours; this time of year, though, you can count on 12. Add bumper-to-bumper morons and a steady diet of talk radio, and it seems like 24 hours of automotive waterboarding. On the other hand, at the end of a trip like that, you’re thankful just to sit anywhere that doesn’t have a steering wheel in front of it.
No more of that for us, thank you. This Thanksgiving we will spend part of the morning selflessly preparing and distributing meals for the less fortunate, pausing only occasionally to wipe pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce from our haloes. After that it’s back to business as usual — we’ll spend the rest of they day eating like pigs, watching TV and snoring.
The eating-like-a-pig-at-Thanksgiving thing is a time-honored tradition in my family, and I was inducted at an early age. When I was a kid, my relatives would all fix a Thanksgiving meal but each would serve at a different time.
My dad’s brother’s family sat down at noon. My dad and I would be there (mom, of course, had work to do and so could not join us), napkins tucked into shirt collars, knives and forks at the ready, salivating for my Aunt Mora’s justifiably famous roast turkey.
After putting away as much food as we could, and burping our thanks and goodbyes, we’d drive to my dad’s sister’s house, where my Aunt Bert would be serving her Thanksgiving dinner mid-afternoon. Before she could say, “Grab yourself a plate,” I’d be tucking my knees under her table and clamoring for more mashed potatoes and gravy, and maybe just a sliver of pumpkin pie.
By the time we’d waddle home, I’d be swearing off food entirely. I would honor that vow – sometimes for hours — until my mom got our meal on the table around 6. At that time, the gluttony would begin afresh and we would gorge until the tryptophan hallucinations kicked in. And then we’d go back for seconds.
Time has a way of changing everything, and it’s especially rough on the stuff we cherished as kids. Birthdays are no longer the big deal they once were, and I’m starting to have serious reservations about the whole Santa deal. But Thanksgiving never changes. Actually, I take that back – every year I have a little more to be thankful for, and enough sense to realize that fact. Combine that with a second (OK, third) slice of pumpkin pie, and it’s small surprise that it’s my favorite holiday.