Based on the Vikings trading the Apache Indians 726 potatoes for Mackinac Island and subsequently spreading small pox throughout North America, Thanksgiving has evolved from the onset of pestilence into a day of gluttony in your uncle’s suburban dining room. The grandchildren say the holiday lacks entertainment other than watching the vagabond your aunt invited into her house (“’tis the season of helping those less fortunate,” she says) drink himself into a stupor and urinate on her antique couch. The oldest generation regales in stories of the previous old generation that no one else remembers. With the old and young otherwise occupied, the middle-agers step up to ingest all the benefits of this unparalleled holiday.
On Thanksgiving you get to perform at your highest level of sloth. There is no pressure to dress up as an Easter bunny, pass out candy while pretending to be amused by a kid wearing a Darth Vader mask, or risk blowing your fingers off with illegal Chinese fireworks. You will not find yourself in a position where you drink yourself to lusting after a fugly stranger at midnight, which has a strong chance of blossoming into another bout of chlamydia. You don’t have to deal with the wrath of your relatives about you being a terrible gift giver when you fling packs of Marlboro’s across the room to infants and the asthmatics yelling, “and lung cancer to all and to all a good night.”
Thanksgiving in its basic form is a privatized version of Old Country Buffet sans cover charge. The women take pride in the ‘homemade’ cranberry sauce even though you can see the rings from the tin can impressed in the red blob sitting on a piece of china that hasn’t been freed from the cabinet in at least a decade. The meal is a standardized spread that gives you comfort in eating the same sides and main dish year after year. If you were more ambitious, and wanted to win Shark Tank, you would find a way to liquefy the entire feast to sell it in IV bags so guys could mainline it to allow for uninterrupted football viewing, but you are you so that’s not going to happen.
When you pass out after dinner, you blame the triptopan in the turkey. You deny that the fifteen cups of glug you pounded after getting winded walking to the annual alley football game had anything to do with your nap. You rattle off an excuse that your inability to run in the game is due to an old knee injury. The reality is that your lack of physical activity beyond crushing clown cans on the train rides home from job as a mid-level manager puts you at a daily risk for a torn ACL from bending over to pick up your shoes in the morning. Your nephews dismiss you as a decrepit and loquacious. They declare that they will never fall to your level of lethargy. You envy their youth, but know that with the ‘D’ averages they are pushing at the local community college a job working the cash register at the Mobil on the overpass will be their future.
By the end of the night, bad blood within the family has resurfaced as Cousin Joe rants about his thirty year grudge against Grandma because she bought his brother Steve a car, but Joe was stuck riding his Schwinn. Your brother-in-law is using his diaper-wearing child’s demeanor as an excuse for an early exit as he is grateful that he only has to see most of these people once a year.
Your often-homeless niece is plotting her Black Friday shopping spree at Wal-Mart. You see the greed pumping through a protruding vein in her forehead. By her calculations, if she leaves right after desert, waits in line, and tramples as many people as needed when the doors open at five in the morning, she can save $50 on a TV. You point out that she is valuing her time at five dollars an hour plus the intangible costs of throwing off her circadian rhythm and possibility facing arrest for fighting with some poor security guard working graveyard shift to feed his six kids. Of course, she ignores your superior logic and moves on to tell your mother about how great the Black Friday deals are this year.
As you stumble to your Uber, you take great pride in yourself that you truly are the black sheep of your family. You are better equipped for this world than they are. You are grateful that their inferior genetic makeup was omitted out of your DNA at your conception. Of course, they are thinking the same of you, but that thought never enters your head.