Talking turkey

Me and Thanksgiving have never gotten along.

Take my freshman year in college. My family sent me a plane ticket home. Mind you, this was back when paper tickets were still issued (right after they stopped engraving them on stone tablets). Suffice to say, people like me are the reason E-tickets were invented. Being none too travel-savvy, I left the dorms half-cocked with a nondescript piece of white paper presumed to be a ticket. Of course, a quick scan would have revealed that said piece of paper was in fact not an official boarding document. But hey, what did they need a ticket for anyway – I mean, they had my money and my name, right?

Au contraire.

“What is this?” the snooty counter woman scoffed as I presented the crumpled paper from my bag.

“Um, it’s my ticket?” I asked hopeful, really quite unsure what it was that I had handed her. It could’ve been my previous night’s bar tab for all I knew.

“This is not a ticket,” she snorted. “This is an itinerary.”

Official enough in my book, but apparently not hers. “This is useless,” she said, and then I’m pretty sure she spat on it.

Tears welled in my eyes as I realized my horrible flub. I flashed back to the manila-colored, rectangle, computer-looking thingie I had carelessly tossed into the great abyss of my bottom desk drawer. No use, by now it was an hour’s van ride away and boarding time was looming.

I tried to work the pity angle, but the friendly skies weren’t smiling.

“B... b… b… but,” I half-protested half-blubbered, “… I’m going home for Thanksgivinnnng … .”

Alas, whiny kids must’ve been a dime a dozen that day. She brushed off the tears I had slobbered on her like some sort of lice infestation and directed me to the nearest pay phone (speaking of lice infestation). Long story short, one panicked phone call, a parental land-speed record to the home airport and a brand new $550 ticket later, I was on my way, weary but definitely a little wiser.

Anyway, from there things went from bad to worse. As if the guilt over the entire tickets debacle wasn’t enough, that was also the Thanksgiving I came out of the closet. No, not that closet. You know, the one to the left with the peace stickers, Birkenstocks, Peruvian sweaters and patchouli lurking inside. The other “L” word equally dreaded by conservative, Reagan-era parents: “liberal.” (Although I didn’t use that word, seeing as how it was still pre-Rush Limbaugh and it had not yet gained the widespread disdain it enjoys today.)

I believe I broached the subject at the dinner table, by casually mentioning that I had partaken in my first presidential election, via absentee ballot. Then, while passing the gravy boat, I launched the missile: I had voted for “the guy with the eyebrows” and “what’s his name” (I’ll avoid divulging their names for fear it will only further incriminate me as being old. If you really want to know, I’m sure they’ve been retired to the annals of Trivial Pursuit by now.)

It was a direct hit. I prepared for retaliation, but instead found others at the table raising their blue flags in solidarity. Seems the tables had turned – in more ways than one. The dinner table was soon thrust into the political equivalent of a raucous food fight.

Anyway, once my father recovered from nearly choking on his mashed potatoes (impossible as it may seem) an eerie calm settled over the table. And, needless to say, there weren’t any more free turkey day plane tickets in my future.

Which is OK. Because as I mentioned, me and Thanksgiving don’t get along. In addition to the now-infamous “Thanksgiving Day Massacre,” there was the year I blew out my knee, the year I totaled my roommate’s jeep, the year we almost burned the house down and the year I spent laid out, five months pregnant, with the flu.

And don’t even get me started on “Alice’s Restaurant.”

Anyway, in case you are wondering, I am feeling typically un-thankful again this year, what with H1N1 hysteria and Sarah Palin’s resurrection and all. Nevermind the picture of her in short-shorts on the Newsweek cover, what’s up with those nylons? Or are we to believe she got that deep tan running under the midnight sun? Don’t pantyhose with hot pants sort of defeat the purpose? At the very least, I guess it sort of gives new meaning to “Going Rogue” (not to mention sandaltoe, nude or taupe.)

Anyway, then come to find Oprah is all but abandoning us, the Antarctic ice shelf is disintegrating and the polar bears have been given 100 years max, before going the way of the dodo bird. All this and courtesy El Niño, it looks like the dust will continue to collect on my first-ever DMR ski pass (don’t worry, I’m not even going there.)

It’s enough to drive a person to drink. Which reminds me of my biggest problem with Thanksgiving: the fact that, despite a pre-meal, self-control prep talk, every year, I still manage to overserve myself. One minute I’m the picture of “moderation,” the next, I’m stuffing myself with bird carcass until I’m ready to explode, eating whipped cream out of the bowl with a spatula and washing it all down with more red wine than is medically beneficial or socially advisable.

Alas, efforts to sway people to my Thanskpity party have been unsuccessful. When I bemoaned to a friend about all the pitfalls of the annual obligatory gathering – the family, the food, the freakishness – I was met with raised eyebrows. “Yeah, but isn’t that a good thing?” she said. “Dysfunctional is the new black.”

Not sure what she meant, but I think she was right. My “problems” are not really problems at all. The polar bears and melting ice caps, those are problems. And Mrs. P, she could be a problem, but that’s a good four years off (and just for the record, I am not jealous. I’ve met mannequins that are more life like and have better personalities.)

Everything else is just an opportunity not yet realized. Experiences to be savored. Doors yet to be opened. And if there happen to be a few skeletons lurking within, all the better. Because if there’s one thing the news of recent months has shown me, it’s that family, friends and life in general, for better or worse, are what’s really important. And I can definitely drink to that.

– Missy Votel