When I was just a lad, my parents would open our home each Thanksgiving to a wide variety of friends and family members. The house would fill to the rafters with the joyous noise of literally dozens of people, ranging in age from infant to — in at least a few instances — close to centenarian. Babies cried, children played, teenagers hid in the basement and adults swapped stories and told jokes to which children already knew the punch lines. After the meal was gone and before the tryptophan took its inevitable toll, the men would retire to a corner room to smoke cigars, drink amber liquor and tell jokes to which the children better not have known the punch lines.
Although our Thanksgiving Day celebrations might have been routine, they were never rote. The sameness called to mind a favorite sweatshirt more than a threadbare hand-me-down. The timeline got to the point that it was beyond predictable, but I cherished every moment as if it were brand-new. Looking back on all those holidays, I wish I had spent less time trying to sneak beer with my teenage pals, and more time just being around the goings-on upstairs.
Therefore, allow me to share with you a few suggestions:
Take pictures of anything that seems remotely worth remembering. When my older brother was still in diapers, my great-grandmother attended the annual Turkey Day soiree at our house. By all accounts, my great-grandmother was a seriously formidable woman. Imagine my mother’s horror when my older brother took the familial matriarch’s purse and dumped its contents out on the floor. Now imagine my mother’s sigh of relief when this prim and proper empress of the fold leaned down and said “that’s wonderful, dear. Now do it again!” No image exists of that moment outside my parents’ memories. I’d pay a king’s ransom to see one. I bet they would, as well.
Turn away no family. Thanksgiving is well known for its status as the most-traveled day of the year. Children, many toting grandchildren, make annual pilgrimages across the fruited plain to spend the holiday with family. Mothers and fathers well into their twilight years turn back into their former parental selves at the sound of their progeny’s feet in the halls of the family home. If they’re anything like my parents, the presence of grandchildren delivers more joy than Publisher’s Clearing House could imagine.
Watch the parade. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an overwrought, over-produced homage to consumer waste. It’s kitschy and corny, and it occasionally features Kathie Lee Gifford. But it also includes the Rockettes and concludes with Santa Claus, and that’s purely awesome.
Bring no politics to the table. That means not only should the college kid with the nose ring leave to the dormitories the tales of smallpox-infused blankets, trails of tears and genocide, but the fathers should resist the urge to point out to the ungrateful little twerps that their sociology professor is an overpaid, under-bathed ninny who “teaches” because he couldn’t keep a private sector job for more than 20 minutes. Pops should also take the night off from wanting to rip the jewelry out of Junior’s nostril and holding him down and shaving that rat’s nest off the ungrateful little jerk’s head. For those of you so twisted by liberalism that you refuse to acknowledge the holiday, or call it something like “Rape of Native Cultures Day,” it is perfectly permissible to give the talking points a rest — at least until after the younger kids get the table cleared. If you struggle to endure the national holiday commemorating the white man’s desecration of a previously verdant paradise and its innocent inhabitants, consider how much everyone else will enjoy it when you spike a drumstick in Grandma’s gravy boat while calling the assembled “Euro-fascist murderers” (or whatever).
I wish you all a sincerely happy Thanksgiving Day. May your holiday be filled with family, fun and enough caloric excess to keep you in a permanent food coma through the New Year.