It’s Thanksgiving again, and America has begun to panic.
Why do we fall apart whenever Thanksgiving rolls around? Simple. It means the countdown has begun. A month or so till Christmas. You’ve got people to feed or miles to travel this weekend, and then comes the shopping frenzy. You told yourself you were going to have gotten all the Christmas shopping done by now, but you haven’t. (Okay, I know one person who is finished and laughing at the rest of us, but that’s it.) Basically, from now until you wake up New Year’s Day, you will not have a moment to call your own. It’s enough to make you want to curl up into the fetal position. Trust me, folks, I’ve been there. But not this year. No, this year I have decided to cast aside all my panic and embrace the spirit of the original Thanksgiving. The Pilgrim Zen, if you will.
Okay, you could argue about whether the Pilgrims had the first Thanksgiving. Some folks say that the first American feast of gratitude happened in St. Augustine, when Pedro Menendez de Aviles celebrated with the Timucua Indians. But really, if you want to get picky, there were plenty of Native American feasts of thanksgiving going on here before any Europeans thought to crash the party. The tradition stems from wherever you decide that it does. So, for the purposes of this column, I’m sticking with the Pilgrims.
Those folks who came over on the Mayflower had brains. They couldn’t practice their religion as they wished where they lived, so they figured out how to move. When they got snowed on and froze and were losing people to hunger, they prayed for help. God sent them an American Indian who spoke English, and they didn’t call him a heathen and burn him at the stake. They listened to his advice about how to grow crops in Massachusetts soil. When they finally produced a decent harvest, they threw a party and invited the neighbors. These are people we can learn from. (I won’t blame them for their descendants who, less than a century later, would hold the Salem Witch Trials. No one gets to pick their relatives.)
Much grousing has already gone on amongst my friends about what challenges the holidays will bring. In this new spirit of accepting what comes and making the best of it, let me see if I can offer some solutions.
Problem: We just moved into a new house, and our kitchen is still under construction. How can we fix Thanksgiving dinner?
Solution: This sounds like an ideal opportunity for a history lesson. How did the Pilgrims cook Thanksgiving? Most likely in very rudimentary circumstances. Build a fire on the patio in the backyard and make the best of it. Put the turkey on a stick and take turns holding it over the flame for several hours. Alternatively, you can do what my family did the year the oven went out – buy a pre-packaged Thanksgiving dinner from the grocery store and a toaster oven. Our meal came “some assembly required” and even after baking, the sweet potatoes were still frozen in the middle. It didn’t taste very good, but it built character.
Problem: If we invite our son, he brings his wife, who always drinks too much. How do we keep her from ruining the day for everyone?
Solution: The Pilgrims did drink, but from what I can find on a site called fermentarium.com, it was mostly beer of a pretty low alcohol content. No martinis. Tell the daughter-in-law that in the spirit of the Pilgrims, you are serving only watered-down ale today. Otherwise, you can always accept the inevitable and turn it into a fun party game. When will the daughter-in-law officially go overboard, and where will she pass out? The winner gets to give Daughter-in-Law a make-over while she’s unconscious.
Problem: I’ve tried to plan for everything, but I know something will go wrong. The thought of it is giving me an anxiety attack. How do I calm down?
Solution: Remind yourselves that unlike the Pilgrims, you have access to 7-11. Sure, one year my two brothers and I had to drive around to three convenience stores to find cranberry sauce when we discovered that no one had bought it ahead of time, but we found it, and the guy running the store was more than happy to sell it to us at a highly inflated price. Everyone went home happy. If that doesn’t work for you, I suggest being proactive and adopting a strategy I like to call, “Choose Your Own Disaster.” Decide what’s going to go wrong ahead of time. Leave the deviled eggs out too long before anyone gets there. Sure, you might still overcook the turkey, but who cares? If everyone has food poisoning and is begging for the sweet release of death, no one is going to remember your dry, tasteless bird.
See? It’s easy. Whatever challenges this holiday brings, just think of the Pilgrims, and you will get through…unless, of course, your dilemma is wardrobe-related. That might be dicier. The Pilgrims had lousy fashion sense. Yes, black is a good basic, but neck-to-ankle, it can be a bit too much. And shoe buckles were a bad idea from the get-go.
Aside of that, though, their wisdom is sound. Go, enjoy, and be thankful for whatever life brings you this holiday season.
Kimberly wishes everyone a happy and non-toxic Thanksgiving. Put the deviled eggs in the fridge now, just to be on the safe side.