There is a reason why I’m happy that stores and TV channels like to skip a holiday altogether and decorate for Christmas 3 months early. My parents have a really bad habit of trying to ruin every Thanksgiving. Every year, we go through the same ol’ song and dance. Dad, who doesn’t lift a finger to cook Thanksgiving dinner, always wants to “skip the hassle of making a turkey dinner, and begs the family to go to the ‘Community Thanksgiving Dinner.’” We all rebuff him, because “community thanksgiving dinner” sounds suspiciously like “public school thanksgiving lunch”.
Mom on the other hand, does her best to throw a dinner together. She usually tries at least three new recipes, one of which inevitably fails. But her heart is in the right place, so I have no real problem with Mom’s thanksgiving spirit. Except for one year.
About seven years ago, in a fit of compassion, my parents invited an elderly couple over for Thanksgiving. I am not a fan of old people. My siblings were equally put out. So we earned ourselves quite a few lectures about being better, more compassionate people.
To be completely honest, I don’t “hate” old people. I hate the stereotypes of old people: the grumpiness, the confusion, the blatant racism/judgment, the gasses, and the screaming of the soon-to-be-deaf. With any luck, our guests Harriet and Dale (names were NOT changed to protect the guilty) would not be like that. I wasn’t hopeful.
Thanksgiving morning, I woke up and began to help my mom make dinner. I’m usually pretty good at making desserts, so mom had me working on pies. Dad was sitting in the living room, being annoying, and telling us how much work we were doing.
Soon, Harriet and Dale arrived, with lengthy boring complaints about how long their 2.5 block walk was to our house. Harriet then declared that she was sitting in a chair and was not going to move until it was time for her to go. Dale went in the living room and talked to my dad about his latest hernia/gout/old-people-sclerosis-outbreak.
We then started the same old process of keeping small talk while cooking. Harriet would only grunt in reply whenever any of us asked her questions, and when she had something to say, it usually was about as interesting (and gross) as steamed broccoli stems.
Dale had disappeared for a time, and we eventually found him sitting on the porch, most of the way through the apple pie I had just finished.
Eventually, we all sat down for dinner. Harriet and Dale both misunderstood the concept of passing the food around, so we had to pass back and forth around them. Harriet loaded her plate up with corn and then complained that her digestive system wasn’t able to handle such an abrasive vegetable. Dale farted at least three times.
What felt like hours later, dinner had ended. Harriet and Dale were obviously full and tired because Harriet’s complaints had disintegrated into drool-filled mumbles, and Dale flat out fell asleep at the table. Harriet jabbed Dale in the ribs and announced that it was time to go. As they were leaving Harriet turned back to us and said, “Well, that was interesting,” and shut the door.
THIS was the straw that broke my mother’s back. She turned to us and yelled, “That was INTERESTING?! How about a THANK YOU?!”
It seems like my mother learned a valuable lesson about old people and the dangers of compassion, because we have never invited another elder over again. Thanksgivings have been marginally better ever since. I still avoid them, and it’s been three years since I’ve had a down home Thanksgiving with my family. This year will be four. I regret nothing.
This post is dedicated to the late Harriet. May her memory never be tarnished by some asshole with a blog and a chip on his shoulder.