For some reason, I like Thanksgiving a lot.
You don’t have to buy presents, for one thing. Also, you don’t have to unwrap presents that are horrible, while you scream your fervent thanks for a multicolored striped attack-scarf that reminds you of nothing but Isadora Duncan and her fatal fashion sense.
No, all you have to do is cook and eat and be a glutton and watch football on TV. Since I am adept at three of those four activities, I become grateful every fourth Thursday in November. (Batting .750 should never be lightly dismissed.)
Oh, sure. We’ve had our off years. There was the first Thanksgiving dinner my husband and I ever cooked, in 1972, when we almost food-poisoned an unsuspecting Japanese couple. There was the year the gravy was purple, the years we left the innards in the turkey.
But I became aware of how benign most of our Thanksgivings have been when a friend told me about one of hers. As usual, her mother had been hitting the bottle pretty heavily, so my friend intervened and hid the bourbon. When her mother noticed its absence, she bit my friend on the hand.
That became my second-favorite Thanksgiving story, eclipsed only by my learning the traditional American Indian Thanksgiving prayer, “Thanks for nothing!” Every year, my part-Indian children and I recite the prayer and try to bring the congenial, freewheeling conversation away from talk about politics and religion and football into more meaningful discourse about genocide and Wounded Knee and scalping.
(Ha, ha, ha! The truth is, the talks about politics and religion might have already taken a turn for the grisly and personal, so who needs more dissent? Anyway, I’ve always taught my kids that nobody likes a bunch of bitter losers, so just pass the oyster dressing and avoid gratuitously snide references to Little Big Horn, except when absolutely necessary.)
Now where was I? Oh, yes! Other people’s bad Thanksgivings! Some Internet pals sent me these:
Another Thanksgiving my then 2 year old daughter tripped and fell and landed face first into a corner in a doorway. Lots of blood and screaming, and she couldn’t eat a thing. The next morning the pediatric dentist insinuated we were child abusers when we had her checked out. “If it happens again I’ll have to make a call.” We found a new dentist soon thereafter. And my husband worked on teaching our daughter to put her hands up to catch herself when she fell!
— Brette Sember, author of The Parchment Paper Cookbook, which I highly recommend
Despite my paean of love to the holiday, I definitely have had my
share of disasters.
The most memorable was my attempt as a nearly newlywed to impress my
country-folk inlaws by cooking a duck instead of a turkey for
Thanksgiving. Do you know how much grease those puppies exude?? I
And then there was the turkey on the spit on the outdoor barbeque (I’m
in Arizona where you can do that). The feast was scheduled for noon,
and everything except the turkey was ready. A gaggle of starving
relatives finally got to eat around 6:00 p.m. when the turkey FINALLY
— Vera Marie Badertscher of the excellent blog, A Traveler’s Library
Anyway, happy Thanksgiving to all of you, Native Americans and oppressors alike. Keep your mother away from the bourbon, teach your kid how to fall, and remember, a duck has a lot more fat than a turkey.
(Copyright 2011 by Ruth Pennebaker)