I don’t remember much about Thanksgiving as a child. I know we obviously had some kind of big dinner because my mom would complain about having to cook it again. I remember the Thanksgivings of my teenage years better–my brother watched football in his room, my dad watched Law & Order reruns in the living room, my mom slaved away in the kitchen (and got more agitated the closer we got to dinner) and I basically wandered from room to room. We aren’t a sports family (except for my brother), nor were we big into traditions or big family gatherings. It was really only our family of four on Thanksgiving, and for years that was fine.
As an adult, I fully understand why my mom got angrier as the day progressed because I, too, get more irritated with the holiday as the day goes on. Thanksgiving has become my least favorite holiday and I honestly wouldn’t be sad to see it go. We have a larger family now with children of our own and, with the addition of in-laws, it can become quite a to-do. There’s often travel involved and sometimes, the “celebrations” become a multi-day affair.
Not only do I feel unease and discomfort with the traditional First Thanksgiving story (pilgrims were not here to break bread with Native Americans), I also harbor a strong dislike of cooking an overabundance of food for no actual purpose. Sure, we get to eat it and that’s fine, we get to hang out with family and that’s alright, but none of it gives me the warm fuzzies. We do all of that a month later at Christmas, which also involves presents and cookies (making it the superior holiday, IMO). I will admit I prefer the Thanksgiving turkey over Christmas ham because I’m not a fan of pig anything (yes, that means bacon, fight me!) but I am 100 percent Team Cookie and not Team Pie!
Keeping It Real
Thanksgiving always feels like a rushed holiday. People panic over the dishes they’re going to make, who is going to come to dinner, where they are going to seat everyone, where is everyone going to park, where are guests going to put their jackets? Is anyone going to bring a dish? What dish? (We can’t let Aunt Susan be in charge of green beans, you know what she did to them last year and nobody could even eat them politely.) The women are relegated to the kitchen to cook all day, while the men sit and relax watching a game and eating snacks. Kids run wild and often fight over the toys they haven’t played with in months but are suddenly incapable of sharing with their cousins.
Once the food is on the table, it’s a feeding frenzy! People fight to get the best seat, dishes are passed around and you hope there are potatoes left by the time the dish gets to you, and then there is the “what are you thankful for” sharing moment where everyone’s answer is a variation of “our family and this day.”
Everyone eats beyond what seems physically possible and you know who has to clean? The same people who had to cook! We’re in the kitchen again cursing ourselves for not using a disposable pan for the turkey or a turkey bag, and we say it every year, but NEXT year we are using a crockpot liner. We scrub dishes until our fingers are raw, and can no longer feel our cankles as they swell up in our shoes. I don’t know about you, but I start questioning how any of this is a celebration. By the time the last dish is in the sink on Thanksgiving evening, I want everyone out of my house. Take your coat, take your leftovers, get your car off my lawn, and just get out already.
The Silver Lining
But in a few hours, I’ll be shopping in the middle of the night for these very same people, and I’m usually with a friend and I think, this is what I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for my friends who go on crazy adventures with me, spending actual time with people versus serving them, and making memories as I fall on the icy patch in front of Kohl’s and laugh a delighted, unforced belly laugh.
Every year I think I’m going to be a renegade and say no to Thanksgiving, but every year I feel guilty because family members want to get together and it’s just what you do in November; I don’t think anyone really loves all of the annoying logistics of the day, but we all do it anyway because we’re family and we love each other. But I’m warning you now–one of these years I’m going to go Thanksgiving Grinch on everyone and ban the holiday. I’m going to sit at home, eat pizza in my pajamas and nap all day so I can shop till I drop on Black Friday and prepare for my favorite holiday of the year: Christmas.