Saturday, November 29, 2008

Happy Fajita Day

When my parents finalized their divorce ten years ago my first thought was, "Well, it's about time!" My second thought: Extra holidays! I guess I've always been jaded. The whole double holiday thing was pretty sweet at first. My brother and I were spared the unnecessary anxiousness and drama of interaction with our extended family and, for the most part, we got more presents. However, the excitement of extra celebrations soon wore off. My freshman year in college, after a semester of unsatisfying cafeteria food and whatever else I could manage to procure, I was looking forward to a big turkey dinner with all the appropriate fixings. I was disappointed to learn that it was my father's Thanksgiving, but I was not disheartened. I offered to make the turkey dinner or, if worse came to worse, suggested we purchase our Thanksgiving meal from Hy-Vee. "I don't really care for turkey," my father explained and went on to brainstorm about alternative meals. When my mother and brother came to pick me up from school, James announced that we would be having fajitas. I was crushed, no, I was angry. I sent out emails to all my friends wishing them a happy fajita day and slandering my father's good name. It has been a Thanksgiving tradition ever since. If Thanksgiving happens to be my father's holiday, I can be certain I will not be having turkey.

This year was unique. My parents, in their old age, had forgotten whose holiday it was or, perhaps, they no longer care. A friend of mine invited me to Thanksgiving at her home in Iowa City. It would be a rag-tag group of friends and regulars from my favorite pub. I reluctantly told her I was uncertain of my Thanksgiving plans, but assured her that I would make it if I could. When her husband sauntered over to me and whispered, "I bough us single malt scotch for Thanksgiving." I was sold. I negotiated Thanksgiving arrangements with my parents and set off for Iowa City with my brother in tow. Thursday morning we appeared around noon with a cherry pie, a six-pack of Shlitz (it was on sale at Hy-Vee) and a bottle of Jameson. My friend and her husband were busy at work in the kitchen and refused to let us help with anything. So James and I sat, munching on appetizers and entertaining our hosts. Slowly, our other friends trickled in. There wasn't enough room at the kitchen table for everyone so some of us were relegated to the basement. It was reminiscent of the kids' table of Thanksgivings past, but far more entertaining. The food was not at all like the Thanksgiving of my youth, but still delicious. We played a rousing, chilly game of croquet, a little fusball, and hours of euchre. The night reached a crescendo when Spike announced that he had confused the hot mulled apple cider for gravy. Thanksgiving with the family you choose is immensely more successful and entertaining (in my experience) than with the family you have.

As for the family I have, we have had a stunningly calm Thanksgiving. My brother and I celebrated with my father Friday night. Sticking to tradition, we made homemade deep dish pizza. Thanks to poor planning and even poorer communication, the pizza ended up more like lasagna, but it was pretty good. Glutton-fest 2008 is only 2/3rds over. As I enter this blog, my mother's house is a bustle of noise and chaos. This is the Thanksgiving I remember. Everyone is on edge, my mother is certain the homemade bread is ruined, my niece (left unattended at the kitchen table) added extra pepper to the stuffing, and my brother is hiding in the basement. I can barely imagine bringing myself to eat anything, but there is nothing better than my mother's cooking (especially her homemade bread) so I will likely end up stuffed to the gills, propped on the couch, my pants unbuttoned, and moaning under the crushing pain of an immense meat wave. When this weekend is over I think I'll abstain from food until 2009. Ah, the holidays.

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