Thanksgiving was always pretty low key around our house when I was growing up. We didn’t live near very much extended family, so it was always just our tiny little nuclear family. We never really invited any friends over, possibly because we didn’t have any. Mom always insisted on cooking up the full Thanksgiving spread with enough food to feed the state of Wyoming, if the state of Wyoming weren’t populated solely by hunter/gatherers who shun all modernity except Wal-Mart.
Mom’s fixation on providing proper Thanksgiving meals came despite the fact that me and Dad could kind of take it or leave it. I mean, it was fine, but so were Lunchables. These misaligned preferences came to a head one Thanksgiving when Dad and me went skiing up on Mt. Hood. I remember it being a pretty good day on the mountain — light crowds and decent snow, plus we didn’t have to watch the Lions play football on TV. Watching the Lions play football always made me feel vaguely sad, like I was watching someone drop a hydrogen bomb on a Pomeranian.
On the way home from skiing we got hungry, so we stopped and picked up some pizza, reasoning that Mom would be happy since she could put that whole big Thanksgiving meal in the fridge and she wouldn’t have to cook for several fortnights.
But Mom was not happy. Mom was very mad. Me and Dad had transgressed. Thanksgiving is supposed to revolve around a big meal with cranberries, even though none of us really liked cranberries so we would always throw them out. That’s just how Mom is. There is a way things should be, a natural order of things, ordained by June Cleaver, and Mom hewed faithfully to that order. I don’t blame her for it. Otherwise who would’ve ironed my undies?
With this cultural heritage, Thanksgiving for my own family also tends to be pretty low key. This year we participated in a neighborhood Turkey Bowl, which isn’t necessarily an Abu Halen family tradition but more an activity of opportunity. Abu Halen scored two touchdowns and threw for two more. So, basically I was the MVP. Most of the other participants were under the age of 9, but I don’t see how that’s relevant. Domination is domination, period.
Later in the day, we invited some neighbors over for dinner. We had ham instead of turkey, because I don’t like turkey, and I’ve convinced my kids to not like turkey either. This is alternately known as “parenting” or “brainwashing.” Our neighbors brought over Canada Dry and cranberry juice, which, when you mix them together, create by alchemy the elixir of life. Or, at least, something that tastes very good. Then we talked for several hours while I don’t know what the kids did. What lasting damage could they do to themselves with unfettered access to the internet?
The day before Thanksgiving I got home from work just as the freezing dusk was snuffing out daylight. Me and Halen bundled up and went for a run in the dark woodlands behind our house. The breeze was stiff, the fallen leaves scraped across the icy forest floor in a state of rigor mortis. A full moon hung in the dark sky, coldly flaming through the skeletal trees and throwing pale light and hard shadows across the trail. We ran and talked, breath like tiny frozen universes puffing from our mouths, a dad and his son beneath the trees and the moon. And I wondered for how long this Thanksgiving memory will live with us.