We Gather Together to, Um, Forget the Second Verse

We ate out for Thanksgiving this year: Dad got back from Korea the day of* and spent the next thirty-six hours up in his room, like Bertha Rochester minus the arson and the tendency to gnaw on visitors. Mom isn’t thrilled with cooking, I’m just beginning to get the hang of food preparation more complicated than “microwave for three minutes on high”, and The Current Boy, while a good cook, was also exhausted. Plus, the restaurant in town is excellent, and knows my folks. I confess, I was a little uncertain about the increased distance between the end of the meal and the time until I could fall asleep in front of A Christmas Story, but it all worked out.

My family hasn’t really done “classic Thanksgiving” often–or not that I can remember very well. A few of my getting-yelled-at-for-kicking-my-sister-under-the-table childhood memories involved cranberry sauce and grandparents, so I guess we did when I was young. My memories before I was seven or eight are pretty vague, though–and we moved to California about then.

Not that California doesn’t have Thanksgiving. Dad’s school didn’t take the week off, though: they had a sort of Parents’ Weekend deal instead, where the students would sing and recite and put on plays**, their parents would meet the teachers and take tours of the campus, and I would mostly hide. There was a year or two where Mom would try to scrub me and my sister, stuff us into nice dresses, and make us sit through the student performances and Dad’s speeches, but she gave it up as a hopeless case by the time I was eleven or twelve. (See also: graduation.) At that point, I’d generally spend the performance time curled up in the library–or playing bad QBasic games in the computer lab–so I’d be close to the dining hall.

See, the school put out a giant buffet Thanksgiving dinner. Five turkeys, vats of potatoes and stuffing bigger than I was, peas, rolls, pie, and, at the very end, a giant, artistically-arranged stack of fruit. Fairly medieval-feast in my memory, really, and an excellent meal.

I hated to stand in line, though–what kid doesn’t? More than that, I hated the oh-hey-let’s-be-nice-to-the-headmaster’s-kid small talk from parents and board members. Not their fault, really, but…well, we had nothing in common, and there were only so many times I could go through the How Big I’d Gotten and How Well I Was Doing In School routine. You know the out-of-touch great-aunt in movies? Being a faculty brat at Midland meant having, like, a hundred and three more.

So Thanksgiving, like most School Occasions, became a whole Mission: Impossible routine for me: okay, okay, they’re clapping, the bell’s going to go any minute now, lurking around the edges of the dining hall and…go go GO! Turkey! Mashed potatoes! Sweet potatoes! Peas! Yes I am Dan’s kid yes school’s going well this year yes I liked the speech a lot Happy Thanksgiving sir or ma’am! Roll! Butter! Pie! First pomegranate of the year!*** Annnnd out!

I’d curl up somewhere with a book–usually the student common room was pretty unoccupied, or there was always the top floor of the administration building–and come down when everyone had gone to drop my plate and cup off at the kitchen. Secret Agent Izzy, having completed another successful mission, could start making her Christmas list.

Those Thanksgivings ended when I was fourteen, but that, as the Conan guy says, is a story for another time.

To get sappy for a moment, I’ve had a lot to be thankful for this year: friends, family, publishing contracts (eee!), a new job, and hobbies new and old. It’s been a good time–and it was a good Thanksgiving, even if it did lack the adrenalin rush of the old days. Hope yours was just as good.

*No, I wasn’t at all tense last week. Why do you ask?
**I did get to be a newsboy in the production of Dracula one year: I don’t remember the play itself so much as I recall watching the big girls dressing up, and dreaming of the day when I too would have earrings down to my shoulders and a magenta silk dress.

Yeah, it was 1992.
***I always looked forward to pomegranates–finding more seeds when I’d gone through a sector was fun, and I did not care, back then, that I inevitably ended up looking like someone out of Titus Andronicus.