Happy Thanksgiving Everybody

It goes without saying, but I’ll start off with it anyway: Thanksgiving is great. Besides Flag Day, it has to be the best holiday of the year. I’m not really comfortable writing these themed blog posts, because all I naturally want to do is just state the obvious, the turkey, the booze, the no work, etc. So I’ll try to attack Thanksgiving from a couple different perspectives.

One reason why I love Thanksgiving so much more than any other American holiday is because it’s the one time of the year where we get to celebrate without having to express our celebration via the giving and receiving of gifts. Christmas is too stressful, and way too commercial. I’ve never, ever had that perfect balance of giving a great gift and receiving a great gift. They’ve both happened at various Christmases in my life, but never at the same time, and never of equal quality. And the buying, buying, shopping, buying of Christmas, to me, sucks a majority of the festivity out of the holiday, out of the whole season.

But this is supposed to be about how much I love Thanksgiving, not about how much I hate Christmas. And I don’t really hate Christmas. Not really. But Thanksgiving. It definitely gets better and better as you get older. It’s nice to see everyone in the same place at the same time, something that doesn’t happen as often as we’d all like now that everyone’s out of the house, living on our own. And being an adult, even if I don’t exactly feel like an adult, it really lets me appreciate going home, not having to work, and being able to stuff my face all day.

When my wife and I were in the Peace Corps, we spent two Thanksgivings away from home. The first one was tough, because we had only been in Ecuador for about five months. Our Spanish wasn’t yet where we wanted it to be, and we were still going through the roughest parts of the culture shock. The Peace Corps office in Quito offered all the volunteers a trip to the capital to have a real Thanksgiving dinner with various embassy staff and their families. My wife and I wound up getting assigned to dine at the Ambassador’s mansion.

It was a formal Thanksgiving, like ties and dress shirts. There were waiters passing out drinks and assigned seats at the table. All of the cutlery and plates were engraved with the seal of the United States Department of State. It was a good time, but it didn’t really feel like Thanksgiving. That feeling intensified when we took turns calling our families back home, listening to everyone having fun in the background, Thanksgiving as usual.

The next year a group of volunteers met up at our site for Thanksgiving. In preparation, my wife and I bought a live turkey to raise a couple months before the big day. The whole process was quite the ordeal, seeing as how the two of us had absolutely no idea what we were doing. We lived in the mountains in a very rural town, and we took a ride in the back of a pickup truck to buy the turkey in slightly larger town about an hour away.

When we finally found somebody with a turkey for sale, they just kind of pointed to it, this animal, “there you go, it’s yours.” I was like, “uh, so, how do I take it? How do I get it back to our house?” And the people who sold it just held their hands up in the air. “I don’t know. Just don’t get too close, because it’ll peck your eyes out.”

After standing there, totally clueless for a little while, someone finally gave us a big sack and helped us put the turkey inside. Then it was back in the pickup truck. When we got back to site, we set up some chicken wire in the backyard and put out some dried corn for it to eat. I didn’t want to get attached to the animal, but to condense the two months that we raised this animal into somewhat of a short story, we wound up naming him Tony, building him a little turkey house in the backyard, and cooking him all sorts of different foods because we felt bad that he might not be too enthusiastic about eating dried corn everyday.

Tony became kind of a second pet for us. Our first dog Gladys had just died and Tony became an unlikely replacement to fill that void. And maybe it was all in my head, I mean, I never thought poultry would be able to reciprocate these types of feelings, but I really do think Tony felt some sort of attachment towards us. Whenever I went out to the back yard, he would come running over to me, his giant wings extended as if he wanted to give me a big turkey hug. When I went inside, he would jump up on top of his little turkey house and cry out. I’d imagine him saying, “Rob! Stay outside with me! I love you!”

But then turkey day arrived and I had to shove any sentimentalities out of my head to get ready for the big day. I invested a solid fifteen minutes of Internet research on the most humane way to go about doing the deed. Martha Stewart told me to get Tony drunk first. Different hunting web sites talked about which guns I should use, or even maybe finding a good bow and arrow. Finally I went with a neighbor’s advice: shoving Tony into a rice sack, cutting a hole in the corner of the sack so only his head would pop out, and then (warning: it’s going to get graphic) slicing his neck open and holding him upside down to bleed out into a trough.

I maintain that the plan was decent and humane, but you know how it is the first time you try anything. There’s always a learning curve. So yeah, Tony probably suffered a little more than I’d have liked. I should have used a bigger knife. I probably should have gotten him a little drunk. After the last signs of life flickered from his beady little eyes, we had to dip the carcass in boiling water to get the feathers off. And then we had to gut him. Somewhere after cutting his neck open but before cleaning out his insides my brain automatically stopped referring to him as Tony.

Hey, I told you it was graphic. But that Thanksgiving was amazing. We were the only Americans celebrating Thanksgiving in a completely foreign environment. We had great friends, great food. We bought a Chinese satellite dish that somehow broadcast a pirated stream of American football. Among my memories of Thanksgiving, 2010 definitely stands out among the rest.

But it’s a great holiday every year. That’s what I’m getting at here. It’s Thanksgiving so I had to put up a Thanksgiving blog post. I hope everybody is making great memories, eating great food, and taking it real easy, just enjoying the time off and spending it with great people. I don’t know about everybody else, but I’m really thankful for everything in my life. I think about the majority of humans who have lived or are currently living on this planet, and I feel grateful for every single second that I get to be alive, living here, part of this experience, part of people’s lives.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

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