A Curmudgeon's Thanksgiving
For those who enjoy time with family (I’m told that some do), Thanksgiving is a lovely holiday. Though it commemorates a meal that probably never happened—certainly not in the way it has always been described to little white children—it has nevertheless become a cherished tradition celebrated by the vast majority of Americans. (I really don’t mean to dwell on this but I must say, forcibly moving onto someone else’s land then magnanimously inviting them over for dinner takes real cheek, pilgrims. Of course, that’s for a more enlightened sense of history to unravel.)
For me, the annual festivities feel ever-so-slightly forced. (Also, I’ve never understood what shared gluttony has to do with being thankful for what we have.) So whenever possible, I don’t participate. And when I’m successful at dodging the whole rigamarole, it’s absolute bliss.
I’ve learned to lie about that choice. The anxiety I see in friends’ eyes when they ask “What are your plans for Thanksgiving?” reveals an obsessive concern with making sure everyone is attending some sort of gathering on that particular day whether they want to or not. It is as if those without such plans are among the most pitiable of creatures and must be persuaded to repent at once and promise to join in the so-called fun. Admitting to not having Thanksgiving plans puts one at great risk of being invited somewhere, and experience has taught me that no amount of polite declining gets you off the hook.
It’s for this reason that, years ago, I began my own tradition. To ease people’s anxiety, I simply respond “We’re having a big family gathering,” which seems to put the issue to rest. It works like a charm.
This Thanksgiving, Mrs. Curmudgeon and I were successful in hiding. It was divine. We puttered. We chatted. I did a crossword puzzle and played a game on my phone. She made a pumpkin pie…and ate it. I binged a TV show and tinkered with writing a column. We spent hours on a jigsaw puzzle while listening to music. Here’s what we didn’t do: We didn’t make a mess of our kitchen. We didn’t contend with holiday traffic. We didn’t schlep heavy serving plates to other people’s houses. We didn’t look for parking. We didn’t make awkward conversation with senile distant relatives or wrangle overactive children or meet anyone’s new boyfriend or girlfriend. We didn’t overeat until our stomachs hurt. We didn’t watch football. And for all of this, we were truly thankful.
The way the Curmudgeons see it, we spent the fourth Thursday in November the way the Native Americans did before the invasion, peacefully and uneventfully.
But if anyone asks…we were at a big family gathering.