I'm not a fan of Thanksgiving. I have come to understand this in recent years. Part of it is that I'm not really a fan of turkey, unless it's the turkey pastrami at the deli or that peppered turkey at King Soopers, and so it's difficult to work up enthusiasm for any meal that centers around a giant turkey. But I'm also a bit confused by the things other people express as being their favorite elements of the holiday -- time spent with family and friends; an opportunity to give thanks for all our blessings; yada yada yada.
First of all, I spend plenty of time with family and friends throughout the year. I adore my family and friends, and go out of my way often to be in close proximity to them. This is a priority for me in my life. So I get a bit snide inside when I hear people yammering on about how this is the one day of the year on which they get to "set aside issues" and spend time with their loved ones. I find this so disturbing. I mean, wow, I'm sorry your family sucks so badly that you can't stand to be near them any other time of the year. I guess I can cut some slack to those who don't live near their loved ones and so Thanksgiving becomes the one time of year you actually get to see them. If you don't get to be with your family, there's of course your friends to fall back on. But it's become more and more apparent to me in recent years that people my age (I'm a whopping 39-almost-40) don't make time for their friends any more. Which I think is sad, weird, and fucked up. And because they don't make time for their friends, they don't really have any friends to fall back on for a Thanksgiving celebration. And thus comes this pressure to find people to celebrate Thanksgiving with, because no one should be alone or in a tiny group for Thanksgiving.
Honestly? Thanksgiving makes me feel the same sort of pressure that bitter singles must feel on Valentine's Day (another useless excuse for a holiday... but that's a whole other story). It makes me feel like I'm weird if I don't profess to get excited about turkey, and it makes me feel even weirder that I wasn't all that disappointed yesterday upon realizing I have kind of a nasty cold and thus wouldn't be able to attend the family Thanksgiving gathering up in the mountains, because there is a newborn infant involved and I don't want to be getting any infants sick. I wasn't all that disappointed, and you know what? I kind of suspect my husband wasn't all that disappointed either. Except about the part where he might miss a really big and tasty meal. He does enjoy turkey. And stuffing. And all that stuff. Except mashed potatoes. He is oddly not a potato fan, which I think is bizarre. What kind of person doesn't love potatoes? Especially when they're mashed with butter and cream and spiced with a bit of rosemary and garlic. (That's a Thanksgiving dinner I could get excited about: a giant plate of mashed potatoes, and not much else.)
Part of it is surely my Canadian heritage. Canada didn't even have a national holiday of Thanksgiving until 1957, so my parents didn't really grow up celebrating Thanksgiving, and even if they did celebrate, it wasn't the huge deal it is now. In Canada, Thanksgiving takes place on a Monday, and no one I know actually even celebrates it on that Monday -- they all have their big meal on the Sunday. Because they have to go to work on Tuesday. No one gets dressed up; my aunt sets up tables in her garage to feed the huge crowd she gets, which is kind of awesome. For her, it seems like an excuse to finally try all the Thanksgiving recipes she's read about in her Martha Stewart magazines for years.
But I digress.
When we moved to the United States, my family no longer had family nearby. So friends became our family, and it was always with close friends that we celebrated Thanksgiving. Almost always at someone else's house. I can count on one hand the times we actually had Thanksgiving dinner at our own house. When we lived in Utah, we always went over to the Butwell's house. After moving to Colorado, we had Thanksgiving with the Leahy's. My mom reserved her meal-planning energies for Christmas and contributed a few side dishes. As a result, I think, the sides became my favorite parts of the meal... but again, not a turkey fan. But the main thing for me was always that whole day to spend with my friends. My family was there, in the same house, but the kids would always be off doing our thing in the basement rec room.
And then we all grew up, and that way of celebrating was over, and it seemed like it became this struggle every year to find something to do for Thanksgiving. In recent years, we've been going up to Granby, CO to celebrate at the home of my brother-in-law's parents, and that's been really nice. But for me, it's just another day with family -- awesome family that I love, sure, but it's nothing we don't get to do on a pretty regular basis. So it's not like I can single out Thanksgiving as being something uber-special and different, not like other days of the year.
I have to confess, one of my more favorite Thanksgivings ever was last year, when it was just The Pook, Rob and me, in our car, driving to Florida. The drive itself was so long and kind of shitty because I was exhausted, since we drove straight through. But the company was the best. We stopped somewhere in Tennessee for dinner at a Cracker Barrel, the only restaurant open on Thanksgiving Day in that part of the country. I was amused by how packed it was. Those were my kind of people, just saying "Screw all the bullshit -- I just want to be with my family and/or friends, I don't feel like cooking, and maybe I won't get the turkey! Maybe I'll get chicken and dumplings, because it's Thursday at the Cracker Barrel!" And even though we were doing something that carries with it a lot of risk -- driving on our nation's highways -- I felt really safe because Rob and The Pook were right there in the car with me. And there's really nothing in the world that makes me feel good the way a road trip with Rob and The Pook does. A road trip with Rob is great, but a road trip with Rob AND The Pook is priceless and awesome.
It looks as though this year we'll be at the Cracker Barrel again, although it will just be Rob and I, as Pook is at his Dad's house. And I don't mind that. And I'm not going to profess to love turkey because I don't. And I'm not going to update my status on Facebook with any messages about how thankful I am for my friends and family, because I show enough gratitude to all of them all year long. And I'm not even going to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving. I'm just going to sit here and watch the Macy's parade and make the occasional snarky comment about it on twitter.