So does anyone else feel like we are being cheated with “Thanksgiving”? I mean when you look at the original version of “Freedom From Want” a.k.a the Norman Rockwell painting I digitally mutilated above, you can’t help but feel like even though we have generally more money for more food, and appliances to let us cook more food faster it seems like we are worse off. Lets break down the average American Thanksgiving day and see if you agree.
First, The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. You know, when I was a kid I remember this was the greatest thing ever. It was amazing to see the balloons, the floats, the marching bands, the Rockettes and of course SANTA!!! Now unfortunately the parade has degenerated into an ad filled bore fest where all the performers lip sync, Disney sponsors just about everything and all of the charm and luster is gone. On top of all that the team they have doing it now sucks completely. The parade is one of the biggest television events of the year and they were stumbling through the entire broadcast.
Next the arrival of the relatives. Now at any point you are more than welcome to read through Holiday Hell and see all of my misadventures through Holidays, but nothing is more entertaining to me than this. Now I come from a very large family with well over 60 first cousins and generally there are at least 30 – 45 people who show up for the meal. The way it usually rolls is that we eat around 4:30 pm but people start arriving around 11:00 am to help out. When everyone shows up they are happy and cheerful and are so elated to be around family and then slowly but surly tensions build until finally both the pots on the stove and the tempers of all are boiling over.
Then by about 2:00 pm you find yourself locked into a completely ridiculous discussion which quickly escalates into an argument that you can’t possibly win. Terror is rampant as all hell has broken loose in the back ground. Babies are screaming, uncles are arguing, people are getting wasted, my cousins are throwing darts in the back ground and no one can hit the board and my mom and aunts are “casually debating” over what method of gravy making is better.
Then of course there is the inevitable fist fight that culminates in the back yard when one family member is forcing another into the mud. Add to all of this excitement my grandfather and uncles weaving a beautiful tapestry of swearing, some of which are words that exist in no known language. It warms my heart to know that in all my life there hasn’t been a Thanksgiving where someone hasn’t called someone else a stupid ass because of their opinion of the current Steelers roster.
After all that it is of course time to eat. First my grandma tries so hard to convince everyone that a paper plate on a wicker…thing is just as good as a real plate to eat off of, but no one listens and instead we dirty every plate, bowl, piece of Tupperware and empty cool whip/margarine container in the house while the pile of paper plates sits stacked virtually to the ceiling.
Beyond the plates and plasticware no one uses lies the promised land. The kitchen table that has every usable inch of its surface covered in food. Food which we proceed to attack like Micheal Jackson on a child’s sweet anus. Left in our destructive wake are only empty serving dishes and over turned gravy boats. The carnage would be frightening if ever we took the time to really take it all in but alas once the food hits the plate the race to find a place to sit is on.
Unfortunately I have to admit that at 26 years old I STILL sit at the kids table, but hey it’s not so bad, now it is like I am the mayor. It is just a little disappointing that I am at the kids table WITH MY WIFE. You see in a family this large there has never been extra space at the adults table nor will there be until some dies or gets divorced. I pray every year that someones marriage fails, but even if it does they usually have someone suckered into joining them for our Thanksgiving meal.
After we suck down every morsel of poultry we can fit in our guts the real fun begins. Ahh the magic of passive aggressive conversation. There is nothing quite like FINALLY having something to be proud of to talk about and be reminded of how you ruined Thanksgivings past. It isn’t just me though, by the end of the meal just about everyone is faking their way through a loveless smile and just waiting for the next phase of the evening where they might get a chance to emasculate and demean their family members which brings us too…
GAME TIME!!! That’s right, after we are all done airing our grievances we all break into groups to play board games. Now this may sound like loving family fun, but don’t be so naive. WE PLAY FOR BLOOD. It isn’t enough just to win at Taboo, you have got to make your opponents cry. Then of course there are the card games. In my family it isn’t just bad to lose at a card game, oh no, lose a round of pinochle in this environment and your partner makes you face the Spanish Inquisition. Nothing like a hot poker in the eye. And all you can do is PRAY to any god that will listen that you aren’t called up to the majors.
You may not have understood that last statement, so let me explain. You see in my family there are certain board games that you can only play if you are invited, and they are only played by “The Elders”, the holiday ruling class if you will. This group consists of my grand mother and grand father my mom’s older sister and her next younger sister. My mom should be sitting on this council, but legend has it that my mom can’t actually rip someones still beating heart out of their chest and show it to them if they don’t play the game the way she thinks they should. The games that are kept for “The Elders” are Upwords, Scrabble (I know i said it was the same thing too), Trivial Pursuit and of course the dreaded Phase 10.
There was a time when I was a younger man…when I had just turned eight-teen that I was asked to sit in and play a game with this group. I look back on what happened next with a 1000 yard stare, like a Vietnam vet who snapped and single-handedly slaughtered an entire battalion of VC troopers with his bare hands. Except, it was me who paid the ultimate price. When I remember it now I see myself walking up to the table, and sitting down while Chris Jericho’s theme “Break The Walls Down” is playing in the back ground.
The first game was Trivial Pursuit. If you are an avid fan of this site than you already know that my cup of trivial (and sometimes carnal) knowledge runneth over. My question to you is how to you beat someone who has all of the cards to six different versions of the game memorized? The answer, you don’t. Even though you KNOW that outside of the constricts of the game this person is utterly useless when it comes to trivia, in that arena your ass is going down. Then it was on to Scrabble. There is one rule, nay, unwritten LAW of Scrabble in my family that I was unfamiliar with. YOU DO NOT PLACE A LETTER ON THE GOD DAMNED BOARD UNLESS YOU FIRST SPEND 19 MINUTES LOOKING UP A WORD IN THE DICTIONARY. I feel the need to point out that this isn’t a regular dictionary either. Oh nay nay nay, this bad boy is a four volume leather-bound dictionary set from 1911, and just to be sure there is every edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary published in the last few years. There was no hope for me.
After the games and the two-hour discussion of the day’s game most of the men are usually drunk out of their minds and the ladies busy bickering and swapping gossip on whoever didn’t make it to the gathering that year. The night begins to wind down and the people start trickling out. It’s a good thing too because otherwise we might have a repeat of the 1979 incident. We know it as the drunken brawl on the front lawn that frightened the neighbors and ruined a tractor, you may know it by its common name…the Three Mile Island Nuclear Meltdown.
So at the end of the night I sit digesting the turkey and waiting for the tryptophan to kick in which when mixed with the down right unhealthy amount of liquor I consumed will put me in a four-day coma allowing me to completely miss Black Friday, I sit calmly. That is of course until I realize that in a month there will be even more people showing up for Christmas.