One Thanksgiving, my parents forgot me. They’ll deny this, but I remember waking up to an empty house after both sets of parents dashed out of town. I made a few frantic phone calls to make sure I wasn’t Left Behind, like the popular Christian books that said that people were going to disappear into thin air, leaving their clothes in place.
If my parents had in fact disappeared, they were nude. I didn’t want to think about it.
I called my friend Stephanie, whose family welcomed me over. They made a few jokes about mandatory second helpings (I weighed 104 pounds at that age), and everyone sat around the living room eating and telling stories. It was so unlike my own family’s huge, formal, rushed, stressful Thanksgiving. Different food, different traditions. When I think back on holidays past, The Year I Was Left Behind still ranks in the top, all thanks to them. It was the first time I’d ever done a holiday without my family, and it was the first time I realized that holidays were about the people, not the process.
Other Holidays in the winning bracket: The Sheboygan Thanksgiving with the Deep-Fried Turkey, The Year I Had Food Poisoning and Missed Christmas, The Year It Snowed So Much I Missed Christmas, and The Year I Finally Wrote This Blog.
My family is its own unique blend of dysfunctional and hilarious. I think I speak for a lot of Americans when I say that we’ve occasionally forgotten to focus on the important stuff: Each other. Being grateful for what we have. Drinking whiskey and seeing who passes out first so we can write on each other’s faces.
I feel that obligatory gift-giving is the bane of our culture, as our addiction to accumulating bullshit swells like a pus-filled blister, ready to explode when we open the storage closet.
If your family doesn’t know your partner’s last name, why are they giving gifts to her?
I have no guilt about selling or donating gifts. I don’t need things. I’ve moved
26 27 times, and I see no value in useless crap. I go to the Goodwill once a month to donate things. I am established enough to buy my own bullshit, thanks very much, but I refrain.
One thing you can’t donate? Memories.
Someday, the people you know will not be around anymore, and I assure you, no one is going to tell the story of the time Aunt Cindy gave you all matching dessert plates.
I’d rather tell the story of the time we all got in trouble because we told Emily it was Christmas a few days early and that Santa didn’t come. She’ll deny this, but you should’ve seen the look on her face when it dawned on her that she’d been on the Naughty List.
Or the time Grandpa Gene gave Kyle’s girlfriend a box of chocolates, but not before he took a bite out of each one.
Last year I gave my sister Nyquil, a Ninja Turtles DVD, and 10 bucks. And guess what? She’s never going to forget that. It’s not that she’ll remember it fondly, but I sure will.
Most of you already have your shopping done for the year, and it’s too late to return that scented bath soap that you’re giving to your brother’s girlfriend. That’s fine. Just do us all a favor and remember that the gift-giving is secondary (hopefully someday obsolete. Crossing my fingers…).
The main event should always be your people.
“I’d like to make a video to play for people at my funeral, where I get down on one knee and say, ‘Will you… bury me?'”