“Sit on your chair. I mean it – stop squirming and sit on that chair right now! I need you eat at least three more bites of everything on your plate, then you can go play grocery store when you’re finished.”
This is how Thanksgiving of 1986 went. I’m pretty sure that ’87 through at least ’92 went this way as well, with my mom or dad threatening me to sit still at the table for at least five minutes – or as long as it took for me to shove what they deemed to be an acceptable amount of turkey and mashed potatoes down my throat.
I remember getting picked up by the back of my blue Osh Kosh corduroy overalls one year as my dad hauled me to the table, since I kept refusing to leave the living room floor, where obviously some important shit between Barbie and Ken was going down.
Having to sit through that dinner every year was torture for my cousins and I; we were way too caught up in our elaborate games of grocery store and house to put that on hold for food. God forbid. None of us really seemed to get the message that we were supposed to be thankful to have food and be surrounded by our family on that day – we just knew that we could cram a lot more activities into those few hours if we didn’t have to stop to eat.
I don’t remember exactly when that changed, and the food became the most important part of Thanksgiving. I’m guessing sometime around 1994, when my 12-year-old self pitched a fit about being relegated to the kiddie table, forcing my grandma to rearrange the place settings so I could sit with the adults.
These past few years I’ve hosted Thanksgiving at our apartment, and every year, sometime between basting the Turkey for the thousandth time and putting enough butter into the mashed potatoes to make Paula Deen blush, I think back to those Thanksgivings when I was a kid and wonder why doing things out of “tradition” now means ensuring certain foods
that the pilgrims never actually ate that you eat once a year are on the table, rather than enjoying the company of your family so much that taking the time out to eat feels like a pain in the ass?
Now, this isn’t the part where I tell you not to enjoy the food on Thanksgiving, or give you “Five Tips to Avoid Overindulging This Thanksgiving!” It’s one day, one meal. I don’t care if you wear elastic waist pants to the table and eat to your heart’s content – go for it. But since you’re an adult now and you have to be prepared to handle the consequences, I would hope that you care enough about yourself to make sure you fit in some extra activity either that day or the days before and after the holiday to account for the extra calories, and that you send home plenty of leftovers with your guests so that one meal doesn’t turn into “Thanksgiving Weekend,” but don’t sweat one calorie-laden meal.
I just want you to take a few minutes that day to think of what your traditions used to be when you were a kid, because chances are, your memories are a lot like mine. Take the focus off of the food for a bit and honor those other traditions by playing a game with your kids, nieces or nephews. Call up your sister and reminiscence about the year you played hospital on Thanksgiving because you were sick with the flu and it was the one and only time she was actually allowed to be the doctor (what, you weren’t bossy like I was?).
Oh, and if you came here because you were looking for a tip for how to avoid overeating on Thanksgiving, I actually do have one for you – sit at the kids’ table and take your cues from them.
What are/were your favorite Thanksgiving traditions? What are you most looking forward to this year?