If Tolstoy were American, he might have written instead in “Anna Karenina”: “All happy Thanksgivings are alike. Each unhappy Thanksgiving is unhappy in its own way.” Thanksgiving can be good; it can be a time of love and gratefulness — but Thanksgiving is simultaneously the fodder for too many bad “Saturday Night Live” skits and too many good stories to keep from sharing. Here is a collection of the sort.
When I was 6 years old and my brothers and cousins were about 12 and 13, we ding-dong-ditched my neighbor. But we did it like 12 times in a row, or something totally obnoxious, so on the 12th time, the man snuck out of his house, hid in a bush next to the door and came out and tackled my cousin. He brought her inside with her hands behind her back. So that’s like technically kidnapping, then my brother runs home and tells my mom. And she’s like fucking crazy scary when she’s upset — she’s very mama bear, we call her big Jo. She has red hair — that kind of paints the whole picture — and she came inside and was screaming at this man. So it ended up going in the local newspaper and they sued us for slander, and the case just closed maybe five years ago.
I have a really big family. My dad’s side of the family is Cuban, and my mom’s side of the family is Turkish-Safardic-Jewish. So we always have Thanksgiving at my house. Thanksgiving, traditionally, at our house is a huge potluck of Cuban food and Turkish-Jewish food. We make like muellos, which are these like sweet spinach pies, a Turkish-Jewish thing. We have pig. We have beans and traditional Thanksgiving food too. I remember one Thanksgiving junior year, we had a bunch of instruments, and my uncles all play the bongos. And my grandma was a belly dancer, so we had this castanet, and it was so beautiful how all the instruments came together and we spent the whole time salsa dancing and belly dancing, eating so much food. There were probably like 50 to 75 people at the house.
Our family Thanksgiving is very much a hybrid and celebration of both cultures.
The first Friendsgiving I ever had, I forgot to defrost the 22-pound turkey, so I just threw it in the oven and it was delicious. The second friendsgiving, I was super on top of it and I defrosted the bird. Super excited. Put it in the oven. Started a gigantic grease fire. Threw water on it. Literally engulfed my kitchen. Had to call 911. Fire department came to put out the turkey. Wiped off the CO2. Served the turkey, most people didn’t know. The fireman came back the next day and asked me out. All in all a pretty fucking good Thanksgiving.
Every year on Thanksgiving, Uncle Ned writes an adaptation of when America was discovered. He casts all my cousins as the Native Americans and the settlers. And on Thanksgiving, they have to do the play.
I come from a really well-educated, liberal family. And one year we got into an argument about who was the most liberal of the entire family. Because, I don’t know, point of pride I guess. So my mom — these are all her in-laws — proctored a debate. And we went through hot topic issues and picked who would be considered the most left. And my grandma won. She had this one thing where she was like, “Yeah, I think that America should just buy all the Mexican drugs and tax and regulate them — and then boom out of debt.”
I was so excited about Thanksgiving because I was 17. Everyone was there. And the way that you really show your appreciation in my family is by eating a lot of what someone has cooked. I was eating and I was eating and I was like, “Oh I’m not feeling so good.” And then they were like, ‘Oh it’s dessert!’ And I was like, ‘Oh I need dessert!’ And I ate so much I threw up. It was like ancient Greco-Roman times where they had vomitoriums. My mom was like, “Catherine, No. This is absolutely inappropriate.” and I was like, “I can’t help it!” It was so good! And I came back and there was a little chocolate and I went to grab it, but they were like, “No! Stop that!”
Basically I spent all my Thanksgiving in Palm Springs; we don’t have any family on the west coast but we have pseudo family. A couple of kids our age: Laura, Catherine, Mason, Maya, Kallie, and Koo. Other than Maya and Cath, they’re all super emosh. They’re like really tempermental as middle schoolers slash late elementary school kids, with me being the oldest kid: something that you can totally extort. So the first time comes around and we’re in the hot tub and the most beautiful sunset comes. So there’s like this rainbow sunset, and it’s one of the weirder things I’ve ever seen because it’s literally the clouds are gravy dreampuffs. So we’re sitting there with Mason, and Mason asks us what it is. And we say, ‘Oh it’s aliens.’ And he believes. And we’re like, ‘Yeah it’s probably the last time we’ll be alive. We should enjoy this moment.’ And we go on with this narrative in which it’s probably the end of the world and he just starts busting out into tears. And he goes to his room and doesn’t come out the rest of the Thanksgiving.
Second story: We did this thing where you say what you’re thankful for. And the person who led it was this girl Kallie, who’s way more emosh than Mason — like probably cries two to three times a day. We were all supposed to submit different slips about what we were thankful for in a box. And then we were all supposed to read each other’s in a circle. Right? Parents were involved. It was supposed to be super cute. There were eight kids but I convinced every kid beforehand to put in, “My Dogs: Mocha and Newt,” which were Maya and Mason’s dogs. And every other kid thought this was so funny. The height of humor. So we were there and it quickly became apparent every kid put in the same thing. And we get about six kids deep and Kallie gets up crying and doesn’t come out for the rest of Thanksgiving.