The Dos And Don’ts Of A Thanksgiving That’s Actually Fun

11.19.18 9 months ago 26 Comments


It’s that time of year again, Thanksgiving. This can be a tough day for many of us, as holidays bring up a lot of stressors. Not to mention traumatic memories. Like the very fact that Thanksgiving exists, for instance.

I still remember the day my mother had “the talk” with me.

“Allison,” she said, patting my bed, “it’s time for you to know the truth about something that has plagued our family for decades.”

“What’s wrong?” I asked, eyes full of innocence, perhaps holding a doll by its stitched-on arm.

“Thanksgiving. It’s a curse,” she said. “And it will haunt you.”

“But –”

“Every year, you’ll be expected to cook a gigantic meal that is a ton of work,” she continued. “But no one will ever really thank you. Turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes…” Her voice cracked before she could get to cranberry sauce.

“But the food is so delicious,” I said. “It can’t be all bad.”

She laughed bitterly. “It is delicious. But you’ll have to eat it with a horde of people — some you barely know and others you can barely tolerate. They show up, they always show up. Knocking, coughing, sticking used tissues from some deadly flu strain into the couch cushions, asking for a single glass of Moscato. They’ll say they’re your relatives but…”

She trailed off.

“Mama?” I whispered.

“Some will be racist and weird,” she said, unable to meet my gaze. “And all day long, you’ll have to talk about your college major and the one thing they remember about you, which is that you really liked the Wizard of Oz when you were eight. No matter how long ago it was. Long after you’ve graduated college. They’ll never remember your job or your sexual orientation. But they’ll know how much you liked the Wizard of Oz for six months one year. They’ll never forget that, sweetheart. Never. They’ll want to bring it up. And you’ll have to… talk about how fun the songs are. They might ask you to sing one.”

“I can’t –”

“They’ll bring gifts. Always a nutcracker of unknown origin. And darling, that’s exactly what they gave you last year. And they’ll want to see it displayed. There will be dozens of them.” She paused, her attention drifting inward. I shifted on the bed. “It’s the eyes,” she finally said. “There will definitely be something wrong with the nutcracker’s eyes — because they bought it on sale at a Marshall Field’s in 1992.”

I was no longer a child. I believed her. And I was terrified.

“The worst part,” she said, batting back tears. “That trip you were saving up for, two weeks with your friends partying on a beach in Thailand. You won’t be able to go. Because all your money will go to flying home for four days to help me cook and watch dog shows with your father while he and I pretend we don’t sleep in separate bedrooms.”

“Why couldn’t I do both?” I asked, mustering my last sliver of hope.

“Oh sweetie,” she whispered, patting my head. “Your plane ticket for the weekend. It will be $2000 dollars.”

“To get to Des Moines?” I asked.

She nodded, threw her arms around me, and we wept together.


Anyway, that’s pretty much the same story all of us were told, give or take a few details. Maybe in your town the great 1992 nutcracker sale was at a Macy’s. Regional stuff you know?

Point being, Thanksgiving can swallow you up if you let it. But you can take control of the holiday this year, and make it one that everyone will actually enjoy. Even you. Here are the Dos and Don’ts to your best Thanksgiving ever.

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