Thanksgiving has always been an interesting time for me. Most of my adult life has been spent living in a different city than my immediate (birth) family and since Thanksgiving is a family holiday, it was always one of the days I would try and make it home. This worked out well in my personal life, too, as most of my partners were either in Vegas or not from America where Thanksgiving didn’t matter. As well, since I was raised Jewish and none of my partners were, this meant Christmas wasn’t an issue, either.
Basically, it meant whenever possible, Thanksgiving (and Passover) were the “family” holidays, worthy of a trip home. Besides, where else could I, as a fully-fledged adult, living on my own, have the opportunity to still sit at the plastic kid’s table?
The other thing about Thanksgiving, at least in America, is that it marks the official start of the Christmas season*. Well, the day after. Sort of. And why is this important? Because it created one of the classic traditions in our family. For Faye, my sister, Black Friday shopping is the pinnacle of her shopping year**. Before and after the Thanksgiving meal, while most of America was watching football, we’d be going through the circulars announcing the doorbuster sales, making lists and organizing a battle plan the likes of which would have made Patton proud and the planners of the Normandy Beach invasion green with envy.
These were the days before cell phones, so all of our coordination had to be planned out in advance. We knew who was getting what, from where, and from whose eyes it needed to be hidden. We knew the order stores were opening, so we could plan on being at location A by 4am, so we would be done in enough time to make it to location B by 5am, when their doors opened.
I mention all this because some of my most favorite memories of the holiday are the ones where friends and former family members would come along and find a way to participate in this madness. Like when Don, my former father-in-law, had decided to visit from England. He was up for anything and was right there with us, staying up and working his negotiation skills to sweet talk folks into giving up their multiple shopping carts of product so we could cross something else off our list. The best, though, was when he waited in an absurdly long line at a Target or Walmart to buy a pack of chewing gum.
“Why did you wait just for a pack of gum?” we asked.
“So I could say I participated in buying something on Black Friday,” he responded, unwrapping a piece and sticking it in his mouth.
Or when my friend Jennica visited from Finland to spend the holiday with us. It took some convincing for her to join in and then when she did, it took even more convincing to let her know we weren’t this crazy all year round.
For the past decade or so, though, my Thanksgiving has been celebrated in countries where the entire holiday is unknown. Sometimes that leads to a bit of melancholy on my part, certainly. When I was in Hungary, my first Thanksgiving abroad, I treated two of my colleagues to a Thanksgiving dinner at the restaurant in the local hotel. I found the closest thing I could to a turkey and potatoes meal and enjoyed the company, giving thanks for the adventure I was embarking on.
A few years later, after Rasa and I had started dating, she decided she wanted to cook a traditional Thanksgiving meal for me, which was awesome***. We decided that just having a big meal for the two of us wasn’t the most fun way to celebrate, so instead, we invited our friends to join us. There were eight of us there, and of course, in the most time honored of Thanksgiving traditions, we needed to borrow extra chairs from Monika (who lived in the next yard over).
We had a decent size turkey with all the trimmings, including a care package from the folks with Stove-Top stuffing and canned cranberry sauce. Truly, a great evening surrounded by the people who had made my life in Lithuania so wonderful. Of course, since we didn’t have a Black Friday shopping event to plan for ****, I opted for the next best thing: Holiday specials!
I got Simas to bring over his projector and screen and then forced everyone to watch such timeless classics as the Rankin & Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town and The Year Without a Christmas. It’s certainly fun to watch the old shows with people whose cultural experiences don’t include them. Instead, the classic holiday fare here includes Home Alone and maybe the Grinch and not much else.
So not really funny or embarrassing memories, but great ones nonetheless. And now, the holiday is coming around again. It’ll probably be just the three of us this year, but Rasa will again make something wonderful for dinner and then we’ll gather around the TV and watch some holiday special and I will be giving thanks for all the wonderful things in my life.
* Thanks (maybe?) to Macy’s parade ending with Santa Clause?
** While she still enjoys it to a point, with the sales starting on Thursday night and even then, not carrying such great discounts, the blossom is off the rose, so to speak.
*** This is wrong – It was Dove who suggested the meal as noted in this original post of the day.
**** Not that the Lithuanians don’t have a copied idea of Black Friday savings as a start of the Christmas shopping season, they just don’t have those 4am doorbusters we so enjoyed waiting in line for.