The Dead Bird Derby! (or, why I hate Thanksgiving)
Well, here we are, boys and girls and whatevers, another Thanksgiving is upon us. I’ve come to the conclusion that I dislike Thanksgiving and almost all it stands for.
For starters, why do we have to have a special day to be grateful for our blessings? Is that not artificial? OK, cool, here we are, fat, rich, and happy. Let’s drop a box of mac & cheese off at the homeless shelter to feel good about ourselves and re-enforce our position in life. Then we’ll go spend money at the mall the next day. No, gratitude is like New Year’s resolutions. If it’s that important, you shouldn’t wait.
The holiday might commemorate something the Pilgrims did to and with the Wampanoags, but its modern observation is laughably young when compared to the not quite 400 year old incident it commemorates. Lincoln instituted a day of thanksgiving in 1863 while the United States was trying to snuff itself, and wasn’t a federal holiday until 1941. So much for the Pilgrims. But then, I suppose all holidays are pretty much schmoozed together, like Christmas magically coinciding with the Saturnalia.
There’s also something about the food that disturbs me. Let’s start with the main course, the turkey. There’s nothing natural about it. Those poor birds are pumped full of chemicals, and are so overbred they can’t even reproduce without human intervention. My son’s godmother’s grandfather helped develop the technique. I don’t know why poultry that can’t fuck bothers me, but it does.
I’m not sure whether or not it was the time I walked into the kitchen to see my mother fisting the turkey, or watching Dad carve the thing up with some hedge-trimmer of an electric knife and seeing all the bits of meat scatter into the air. I’d resumed carnivory by this time I witnessed this, so the fact that it was a dead bird surrounded by a cloud of meat wasn’t it.
Maybe I just don’t like turkey, a sauce made of innards, and stuffing, which I pray isn’t cooked inside the bird because it won’t get hot enough to kill whatever lurks in the eggs used to bind it together. Hmmm, now that I think about it, perhaps this is the way the chickens strike a blow for their cousins, the turkeys. You want a piece of us? they say. Fine. But the eggs? Those’ll kill you.
Really? This is what the richest society on earth has been reduced to eating? We don’t live the way the Plymouth Colony Puritans did, so why must we eat like them?
I suppose the real reason I dislike Thanksgiving is because it’s one of the few family gatherings I’ve not managed to avoid. It can be very dispiriting to see just how polluted my gene pool really is. Nature or nurture, can there be anything more damning than seeing everyone at one time? There’s the grandparents, who think a jar of “pickled buns” (a jar of full of tiny butts made of panty hose and cotton balls) is the acme of humor. There’re the dead-behind-the-eyes second cousins who, in the amount of time one has earned a BA, an MA, a PhD, and started a family, can’t quite manage to graduate from community college. Or what of the mysterious relatives—no one’s really sure how exactly they’re related—who always manage to find their way to the buffet table, but can’t seem to figure out how to prepare anything to contribute?
Or there’s the utter mind-numbing tedium of a day spent waiting for a meal one doesn’t wish to eat in the first place. Football, you say. If I’m going to watch TV all day, football is not what I’d choose. Puzzles? Cards? Board—or is that bored—games? Save them for the retirement home. It call comes down to the people, and Mom and Dad, if you’d wanted me to spend time with these, we should’ve seen them more than once or twice a year while I was growing up, because now that I’m in my forties? Good luck with that. No, Grandma, I won’t pull your finger. It wasn’t funny last year, or the year before, or the year before that…
I suppose it could be worse. It could be the time a much older relative of my husband hit on him at Thanksgiving dinner. Or maybe that was Christmas. Whatever, it was just creepy.