Holidays are tough even from the perspective of a home and place you’ve lived in for a lifetime. Handling the pressures of holiday obligations from a newly rented home in a city far from where you had planted your roots with a pocketbook made up of pennies and a bucketful of misgivinings makes it hard to even drag yourself out of bed. But life goes on and Thanksgiving will still happen with or without you. Here’s my guide for the holiday blues.
DON’T OVER COMMIT
My family’s traditional Thanksgiving plan begins with dinner at the family farm. Old habits still prevail with an early dinner originally planned so the meal wouldn’t conflict with getting the cows milked. Because of the size of my extended family the meal always took the form of a buffet with mashed potatoes, dry turkey served from a roaster, marshmallow jell-o and baked beans. Other than the hint of color in the jell-o the general rule was for meals to consist of food groups displaying a color palette ranging from white to brown.
It had been our intent to add to this with a second dinner at our new apartment later that night. We were going to host round two: an evening meal with invitations extended to only my immediate family. Rick had fabricated a menu including a glazed ham, cheddar and sage biscuits, Brussels sprouts smothered in a medley of cheeses, potatoes Anna, some harcourt verte topped with beer-batter crusted and caramelized scallions, an onion tart and several desserts too numerous to mention. This was all planned before: one - Rick got his work schedule showing a 3:30 am call to action, two - we counted out our pennies and realized there weren’t enough to purchase the sprouts let alone the ham, and three - we looked around at the piles of still unpacked boxes that would take days to put away. We scaled back and decided one big bowl of banana pudding set amongst a room with neatly stacked boxes was about all we could realistically accomplish.
Let someone else in the family host that first dinner. Sit back and enjoy someone else's labors. You have enough on your plate to deal with.
DON’T DWELL ON THE PAST
We have a new home. The home isn’t in Chelsea on 30th between 6th and 7th. It’s on North Thompson at the corner of County Trunk T. It’s less than three miles from the home I grew up in and just over a mile down the road from the farm where my mother was raised and where we were headed for our Thanksgiving dinner. This has the sense of having gone full circle. Madison is where we now hang our hats and I need to be fine with this no matter how much I wish I were still able to wake up and walk down the block to catch the "F" train at 34th and Broadway.
Don’t wake up Thanksgiving morning and turn on the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade and expect not to feel a shooting pang of nostalgia. Turn on the Packer game instead and enjoy what Wisconsin has to offer.
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
Someone had to do it and we didn’t have any vanilla extract for the banana pudding so I ran over to my mom’s to check on her. I could do a little double duty: pick up the extract and make sure mom had taken her medication. When I got there, mom was dressed for work having slept in her clothes for the third or fourth time that week and the pills she swore she had taken were still there in the Thursday compartment of her medicine dispenser. On a whim I took a quick tour of the downstairs. There was still enough salt in the water softener. None of the clothes laid out on the pool table belonged to us. The extra fridge was closed but empty, and then I walked into the downstairs bathroom. I immediately noticed the ceiling had turned a rusty brown and water bubbles had formed from one end of the ceiling to the other. The water damage was beginning to creeping down the walls. The plans for the day were going to have to take a u-turn. After several phone calls we all decided we could still make dinner at the farm (who was going to find a plumber willing to come over on Thanksgiving day), but dessert at our house would now have to be demolition at Florence’s. It’s where the unexpected turned into an event with benefits, nothing like a little bonding while wielding a sledgehammer with siblings and in-laws.
Go with the flow. Time spent with a family swinging hammers for a cause instead of slinging barbs and innuendo can be a joy to behold.
DON’T GET SUCKED INTO BLACK FRIDAY
This may happen in many parts of the United States but it is a whole new world to me. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, where the retail world opens its doors the minute the clock strikes twelve. It seems such an insult to Thanksgiving. Here was a day the pilgrims gave us to eat, relax and watch football and now the mighty world of commerce has lopped off a good eight hours shortening the day to two-thirds of what a normal day should be. Clerks, cashiers and customers alike now have to end the eating frenzy and quality time with family and ESPN to go to bed by two in the afternoon so they can get up to form huge lines waiting for those all important door busters only available as Thursday turns into Friday. Who thought up this one? Best Buy has crowd control drills for its employees; stampedes occur where women and children actually get injured and all for what? Insanity has slithered into the holiday season. The Thanksgiving morning paper arrives with an audible thud due to the sixty-three circulars announcing microwaves for twenty-four dollars and alpaca lined hoodies for twelve, all bundled between the eight pages of actual news. The first three hundred customers in the door get a free ten dollar gift card with the purchase of a hundred dollars or more of stuff they don't need. People...get a grip.
Have an extra slice of pumpkin pie, stay up until eleven and forget the impulse buying. It’s what the pilgrims would have wanted.