So we all know the traditional reason for Thanksgiving; the Puritans came over with no idea how to take care of themselves over here and the Native Americans saved them from starving to death. Some of us even recognize that the Puritans started the trend of totally screwing over the Native Americans and if there was anyone left over from that original tribe, they are facepalming themselves wishing that their forefathers would have just let the dumb asses starve. Ah well, hind sight is 50-50. Now in celebration of that giving act (the road to hell, right?) from one people to another is now celebrated by many different family traditions.
Some family have big family gatherings with food and good quality time spent together. Everyone helps prepare the meal and set out the table. They eat together and have enjoyable and engaging conversation about their lives after saying a thoughtful and meaningful prayer. After the meal is over, everyone pitches in to help with the clean up so everyone can get to relaxing and enjoying the turkey high more quickly. The rest of the evening is spent in jovial conversation until everyone reluctantly parted for the night glowing from the familial bliss. So maybe no one has this Thanksgiving unless they are in a pie crust commercial.
As I grew into a woman I realized that family holidays kind of suck for women. Sure we get the joy of having our families together but it is a whole hell lot of extra work. We do the cooking and watching over all the screaming spawn while the menfolk watch t.v and talk or, if we are really lucky, deep fry the turkey outside like manly men. After the food is all prepared, everyone eats together. Sometimes, and by that I mean if no one cares about the football game that is on, everyone sits down to eat together. The conversation is often jovial and good, unless you are the weirdo in your family, then you spend all of your time fielding and deflecting questions that you would rather not have asked. (Not going to lie, I had fantasies of telling my family that I was going to go to grad school in Berkley, start wearing Birkenstocks, and become a lesbian when they asked me either when I was getting married or what I planned to do with my life.) Other families go for the eat in front of the t.v approach. Generally this is where the football fans take their plates to the living room and eat in front of the t.v while the remainder of the family gather around a table or counter and talk about something that has nothing to do with football. The benefit to this method is that you don’t have cranky people wanting the meal to just be over so they can check the score.
Everyone knows that the clean up is actually generally relegated to the women and the older spawn. Everyone else meanders off to indulge their turkey coma, while the women and older children get to wash the dishes and divide up the food in take away portions. Oh, and by god, you will take those left overs, because the hostess is pissed enough she is going to find stuffing in strange places for ages afterward, she does not want to have to figure out what to do with enough left overs to feed the population of a small island nation. Besides, splitting Aunt Fern’s turnip casserole into five family sized portions helps hide the fact than nobody touched it.
After clean up everyone hangs out for a bit talking until someone has to go for some credible reason or other (early work, kids need sleep, the poodle is on fire). This signals the beginning of the slow exodus where all the families leave at almost predictable intervals. There is always that one family that lingers too long and the hostess is too polite to tell them to get the hell out so she can put on her sweats and go to bed but eventually everyone leaves. The conversation in the car ride home is almost always the same. It starts with affirmations about how nice it was to see everyone and how good it was to see how well everyone was doing. There might be a few more comments about individual successes and other happy things, but after that comes the real talk. There is a lot of hushed “can you believes” or “did you hear so and so say” while the kids sit in the back seat listening to the gossip trying to figure out what the hell is going on. The same conversation is going on at the hostess’s house except there are puzzled queries about how the hell cranberry sauce got on the light fixture.
This is how real people have Thanksgiving. Damn those food commercials for trying to sell us any different.