The fourth Thursday of November is a day I have long cherished. Memories of the first moments upon waking up in the morning, in recent years from an alcohol-induced coma, are as vivid as the day is long. My parents are mulling about *upstairs in the kitchen. I hear faint sounds of the Macy’s Day Parade on the television. I quietly laugh to myself thinking about all of the idiots lining the streets of New York in tundra-like temperatures as they watch balloons go by for a grand total of 13 seconds. “Wow did you see that one?!”, one parade goer says to another.
I question why at age 10 I chose the bedroom directly beneath the kitchen, subjecting myself to the faintest of footsteps and chair movements above. I roll over in an attempt to distract myself from the more than reasonable noise. I reminisce about the hometown faces I wish I hadn’t seen the night prior. The food processor is in use as I try to forget that my mother is cutting corners instead of slicing and dicing by hand. Sue me for being old fashioned!
It’s Thanksgiving Day. A day of traditions galore is underway. Should the traditions ever change or fall by the wayside, the nostalgia will always be there in spades. Everyone in my family will chip in throughout the morning and into the afternoon, apart from my little brother who is only tasked with the menial job of filling the coolers with ice, beer, and soda. It requires consecutive journeys from the garage to the porch and back again. That job sucks.
I’ll pretend I know what I’m doing when I take over the Stuffing responsibilities. I will also continuously pester my father, pleading with him to make the gravy thicker than usual. He claims he will, but we both know he won’t. He will be shouting commands the Amazon Alexa about god knows what, who is as disobedient as ever. Sucks not to be heard, doesn’t it? Thicken the gravy, Dad. Last year, he wore a red and white gingham shirt that perfectly matched the one of the kitchen utensils in his hand. Hoping for that again.
Aunt Lori will bring an appetizer that doesn’t jive with the Thanksgiving theme in the least. It might be mini hot dogs, to which I will put my holiday spirit bias aside and indulge in. Uncle Allen, whose name I can neither spell nor have the desire to learn, will arrive midway through the first quarter of the Lions game. As is tradition, he has placed a sizable wager on the wrong side of this game. He will get unnecessarily excited about a 2nd quarter turnover, and he will fall asleep sometime in the 3rd quarter. He has also bet against the Cowboys, who will win by double digits.
Cousin Joey will walk in smelling exactly like someone who sprayed a bunch of cologne on themselves because they just smoked a ton of weed. To be fair, being sober at a family function is borderline insane. Cousin Joey should be commended for being proactive. Cousin Danny will make 3-5 arbitrary South Park references where I’m supposed to respond with a reference of my own to indicate I know what he’s talking about, even though I usually do not.
Aunt Stacey and/or Aunt Lori and/or my mother will take pictures throughout the early part of the day. Nobody wants to, but we (my cousins and I) partake because it’s simply easier that way. I’ll probably include some lewd hand gestures here and there to keep things entertaining. If we have to endure the ridiculousness of two aunts taking the same pictures from two separate phones simultaneously, where it’s impossible and annoying to try to switch eye contact back and forth, then it’s better off doing so before we eat. For the most part, we all feel and look like shit once dinner is over. Plus, cousin Joey is no longer stoned at this point and therefore not a willing participant. The pictures will be up on my dad’s Facebook in a matter of hours.
In short order, Uncle Joel has some combination of food and sauce in his white beard. My cousins and I will direct Santa Claus jokes his way from across the room, none of which he will hear. Regardless, hilarity ensues. Aunt Suzy will move throughout the house and join in on all conversations no matter the topic. Oddly enough, recapping our lives for Aunt Suzy in a matter of seconds is one of the best traditions we have on Thanksgiving.
“Dinner” typically starts around 4:30pm. I know that because it almost always coincides with kickoff of the Cowboys game. My dad will “request” that the TV be turned off. I will not-so-kindly decline his request. There’ll be a brief back and forth where, as host, my dad will try to intimidate. The numbers are not on his side, however, consider that almost everyone, himself included, wants to watch the football game. The compromise we make is that the TV stays on but gets muted until we go around the table where he each person gets their own soap box to say what/who they’re “thankful” for.
The “I’m Thankful For _____” segment has lost its luster over the years. The jokes have become far more infrequent. Hopefully someone brings up the one year Cousin Joey passed on Thanksgiving to attend a Nicki Minaj concert. Cousin Danny will, as always, say he’s thankful for hockey, which is still hilarious despite knowing it’s coming. Most of us use our spotlight to say something genuine and heartfelt. As much as I’d like to make the moment about myself and bring the house down with a joke, I’m much more concerned with getting my hands on the limited supply of gravy. Shout out to Uncle Mike for keeping his words short and sweet, thus speeding up the process and getting us quicker to full volume on the television once again. The Cowboys should be on the board already, and Uncle Alan is beside himself. Uncle Mike couldn’t care less about the game, however, and his brevity is usually a direct rebuttal at his wife, our Aunt Lori, who is prone to an Oscar-length speech but not exactly an Oscar-worthy one.
And that’s the gist of it. We eat, we drink, we laugh, one person will probably cry, maybe Uncle Mike if he gets drunk enough. I’ll carelessly leave my plate on the table with no intentions of cleaning up after myself. I am not the host. Plus the couch is calling my name. My insides are in tremendous agony, but dessert better be put out soon because my Thanksgiving is not complete without apple pie. We’ll sing happy birthday for 3 people who have celebrated birthdays within the last 2 months. Everyone slowly trickles out to their cars, far away from me, and not a moment too soon. Another glorious one in the books. I fight to stay awake for the third football game, bottle of wine within arms reach. It’s beautiful. Happy Thanksgiving.
*We have a split-level home…fuck you and your Victorian Manor.