Take That, Thanksgiving!

The March of Miles Standish (1623) Date made: ...

The March of Miles Standish. (Who?) Image via Wikipedia

Thanksgiving hates me.

Over the years, it has become something of a cruel family joke. Others find our superstition ridiculous, but every year, as Turkey Day nears, my wife and I nervously await the dropping of the proverbial other shoe. And it usually drops on our heads.

It all began with our first Thanksgiving together as a dating couple. The day before Thanksgiving was to be the last day of a job I was leaving. I would close the door on that chapter of my professional life, pack up and head to Mobile to see my family, the new girlfriend by my side. Instead, everything imaginable went wrong at work, and I didn’t leave the place until 5am Thanksgiving morning. We slept all day, waking in mid-afternoon to have our Thanksgiving feast at the Omelette Shoppe and catch a Star Trek flick … just as the Pilgrims had intended.

The next year, determined to get it right, we planned ahead, made sure we could get on the road at a reasonable hour. Three days before the big day, we joined my girlfriend’s (yes, still girlfriend at that time – the proposal was yet a month away) old college roommate for a nice seafood dinner. One night later, we ate leftovers. A few hours after that, the food poisoning kicked in. I didn’t get sick, mind you. It turns out my time-honored tradition of eating cold pizza that had been left on the counter for days had prepared my system for just such an occasion.

We marshaled on, traveling to Mobile despite the then girlfriend’s bacteria-weakened state. Arriving at my parent’s house, she immediately went to bed and didn’t come out for a couple of days … just as the Pilgrims had intended.

Thanksgiving number three found us visiting her family. No vomiting this time, but plenty of passive-aggressive family dysfunction. Now, if you watch Hollywood films about Thanksgiving gatherings, you would think that back-biting, threats and insults were a tradition begun by Miles Standish himself. I, however, had never experienced anything but idyllic Thanksgivings with my extended family. As the old saying goes, “There’s no negative feeling so strong that it can’t be repressed for at least a decade.” Or something like that.

Our fourth Thanksgiving was finally perfect. Of course, we were newly married and on a 12-day Caribbean cruise. Never mind the fact that the wife had been in and out of the hospital the week leading up to our wedding. Also ignore the fact that I came down with strep the first few days of the cruise. Thanksgiving Day itself was wonderful. It only took us leaving the country to get the holiday right … just as the Wampanoag must have hoped the Pilgrims would. (Okay, maybe passive aggression really is a tradition.)

Thanksgiving five brought more vomiting. The following week, we would learn that was due to my wife’s pregnancy with our first child. So, we’ll call that one a push.

The next couple were uneventful. Thanksgiving eight, however, introduced a new trend: car trouble. Our trip to Mobile ended just north of Montgomery with us, our two-year-old daughter and our cat stranded on the side of the highway. After a couple of nights staying with family and trying to wrangle a way to Mobile, we finally had the car towed back home.

The following year, everyone came to us for Thanksgiving … because our car was broken down again. Dealing with car troubles on Thanksgiving morning didn’t exactly put everyone in the best of moods. But hey, at least no one threw up.

Thanksgiving ten, we had a newborn. My wife was still recovering, so we went the cheap route, buying a packaged meal. It was awful. No one threw up, but everyone wanted to.

Number eleven was a hit. Great food, great family time. Number twelve was good, too. Maybe the curse had ended! But no, it was not to be.

Lucky Thanksgiving thirteen found me moody and hiding in dark corners to escape conversation. I had been up most of the night checking on the turkey at regular intervals. Perhaps lack of sleep was to blame for my mood, although the wife didn’t find that a suitable explanation. I should have guessed it was the curse rearing its ugly head. The projectile vomiting started later that evening. It was followed by a fever of 102 that lasted for two days. My children and my mother were stricken with the bug within hours.

Our fourteenth Thanksgiving was a tough one. It was our first without my father-in-law. And we had our family meal on paper plates … in the hospital … at the foot of my mother’s bed. She had back surgery that week – mere hours before the holiday. We’re not really sure why the surgery had to happen at that particular time. What kind of doctor deliberately dooms his patients to spending a holiday in the hospital? Talk about someone who needs a dose of the curse …

Thanksgiving fifteen came mere weeks after having moved both my mother-in-law and ourselves. Two months of moving leaves one feeling less than eager to slave over a hot stove. We kept it small, simple and good. no fuss, no expectations. It worked! Maybe this was the secret to a successful Thanksgiving.

This year, the week prior to the accursed holiday found me hundreds of miles away while the curse did its best to take down my family. My kids swapped illnesses during the week. My wife’s and my mother-in-law’s cars experienced maintenance problems, and, worst of all, my dad ended up in the hospital due to low magnesium levels. After hauling butt to Mobile, I swiped some mag rims off a hoopty for him to gnaw on. He came home and regained his energy. The family soon joined me, and we had … wait for it … an awesome Thanksgiving!

Maybe, just maybe, we’ve left the curse behind.

I know it has become fashionable to rant and rave about Christmas encroaching on Thanksgiving’s territory, but don’t be surprised if I mock you for espousing that sentiment. If history has taught us anything, it’s that Thanksgiving is a cruel, evil holiday that is slowly trying to kill me and my family. Sure we make it out to be this great, noble thing: a celebration of the providence that allowed the Pilgrims to prosper in the New World. But that history is written from the Pilgrims’ perspective. How did that whole thing work out for the Wampanoag?

Besides, if Thanksgiving wants to compete with the big boys, it’s got to up its game. Here are a few suggestions to help Thanksgiving regain its hold on the month of November:

1. A better soundtrack: Christmas music, though ubiquitous and annoying by December 26, is, let’s face it, awesome. Any holiday that can boast hits by John Lennon, Elvis, the Beach Boys, Sinatra, Satchmo, Crosby and Gene Autry knows how important a good soundtrack is. That “over the river and through the woods” business just isn’t enough to compete.

2. Better movies: Other than one good Daffy Duck short and the Peanuts gang, Thanksgiving movies are either preachy or depressing. You either get dysfunctional family gatherings or lessons about conservation. (I’m looking at you, Pocahontas.) The one bright spot in the modern Thanksgiving movie line-up, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, was impossible to find on TV this year.

3. A better mascot: Christmas has Baby Jesus and Santa Claus, plus a whole supporting cast of other characters. Easter has the bunny and a resurrected savior. (Top that!) Independence Day has Uncle Sam. Thanksgiving has … a turkey. And Miles Standish. When one of your mascots is practically unknown and the other is the main course, the terrorists have already won.

4. Pick a date and stick with it: Christmas works because everyone knows when it happens. Same goes for New Year’s Day, Independence Day and Halloween. This fourth Thursday of the month nonsense is for the also-rans. Come on, Thanksgiving, you don’t want to end up like Columbus Day, do you? I thought not.

5. Better events: The Christmas season is littered with special events all over the country: lights displays, choral concerts, ballets, musicals, parades … Disney on Ice! Thanksgiving has two things: the Macy’s Parade and some really crappy NFL football. The Macy’s parade is epic, but the whole thing builds to the ultimate moment when … Santa Claus closes out the parade. Really!? You complain about Christmas encroaching on your territory, but you give the fat man the best moment in your one decent event? Thanksgiving, you just got owned.

Come to think of it, Thanksgiving started in what is now Massachusetts after the near death of the colony there. Meanwhile, the colonists down South in Jamestown had been well estabished for over a decade. So, it’s really nothing more than a holiday to celebrate Yankee incompetence. No wonder it hates me and my real Southern family.

6 Responses to “Take That, Thanksgiving!”

  1. Haha, I was just thinking this morning, “what’s up with Real Southern Men? I haven’t seen a post in a while. Now I get it – you were laying low. Sometimes the other shoe doesn’t drop, so much as it’s thrown. Best to keep your head down, huh?

    • That, and I was overwhelmed with helping my folks get ready for the evil day. I’d like to say we’ll be posting more regularly in December, but it’s going to be a crazy month. If only this site were self-sustaining…

  2. How dare you call Dallas Cowboys football “crappy”! Maybe this is why Thanksgiving hates you!

  3. Oh. My. Law. You’re like the Thanksgiving Job. (As in Book of Job, long ‘o’)


  1. Week in Review – Holiday Spirit | steadily skipping stones - December 4, 2011

    […] Take That, Thanksgiving! by Wayne (in which we learn why Christmas kicks Thanksgiving’s butt) […]

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