The countdown to Thanksgiving is on, despite the fact that retailers would like you to choke down your turkey and fixin’s so you can dash off to stand in line for Black Friday sales. To me, though, they are so missing the point: Thanksgiving is by far my favorite day of the year and should be savored and enjoyed. A holiday that celebrates gratitude, includes the most natural, deepest sleep-inducing ingredients (red wine + tryptophan = better than Ambien), AND has the best leftovers? Perfection.
Yet there is one lil’ caboose in the Thanksgiving party train that can send the whole damn day swinging off the rails: family. You know, the peeps who put the “fun” into dysfunction. My earliest Thanksgiving memory encapsulates exactly that: it was the early 1970s, and an aunt of mine had just had her legs amputated due to complications from diabetes.
As her husband wheeled her into the house from her new tricked out van, every single grownup in the room started to cry. Not discrete tearing up, mind you — heaving, loud sobs. As a huge fan of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, I was terrified: Sendak’s vision of monstrous, horrifying aunts, uncles, and cousins was coming to life in my own living room! Thankfully, my aunt’s hippie sons had the wherewithal to whisk me out of the room and give me a little pre-Channukah gift: Sea Monkeys and the newly released Led Zeppelin IV. Although it would be years before I understood any of what I’d experienced, I always associate Sea Monkeys with shimmering tears, and to this day can barely listen to hauntingly ironic lyrics of “Black Dog” (“Hey, hey Mama, said the way you move…” — crap, not so much.)