Thanksgiving has always been a sort of mixed holiday for me. I like the concept (in an uncomfortable, self-conscious kind of way), but the reality has always morphed into something far more complicated and different than the original idea of coming together and giving thanks. It’s more like a delicious meal with a soupçon of dysfunction.
Where I come from, a traditional Thanksgiving goes something like this:
The day usually begins with my mother freaking out about how long to cook a turkey. She becomes increasingly bitter throughout the day because my dad is sitting on his ass watching football and nobody is helping her in this gargantuan task.
By the time the guests arrive for dinner, my mother is usually on the verge of tears and/or telling everyone to go fuck themselves. Dinner is usually delicious and we gorge ourselves nauseous. Later, my mother weeps over some event from her childhood.
Over dessert some too-drunk member of the family has a mini tantrum, and storms out blithering semi-coherently about how someone has always loved someone “better than me”(and yes, on occassion, the blithering drunk has been me).
Frankly, I was perfectly happy to let the holiday pass quietly here in France, even though I appreciate the irony of having a first Thanksgiving in “the new land.”
But then my American neighbor and (ex?) friend, William, invites me and 20 of his closest friends for Thanksgiving dinner.
I’m a little petrified. All these people will be in their 20’s, That’s a chasm that can be wider than any language barrier. Clearly I won’t find a boyfriend here…unless some of them have single fathers. I’ll probably end up alone in some corner with everyone feeling weird that an old person is there.
On the other hand, it’s a cool opportunity for observation, maybe it’ll be fun, I might make new (albeit young) friends and I could use a good meal.
The first thing I do when I enter is knock over the coat rack, not an auspicious beginning. William reacts as if I just burned down the apartment. I assume he’s a little tense from cooking all day and wanting everything to be perfect.
I sit down next to William’s good friend Cedric, an adorable pilot who lives in Biot (an adorable nearby village) and almost knock over the TV. At this point William is practically apoplectic at me. Cedric kindly moves the tv farther away from the chair so I won’t destroy William’s prize possession.
Clearly the safest place is either in the bathroom or out on the terrace where the only thing I can really break is me. I opt for the terrace because I can smoke out there and I won’t be constantly interrupted by people who have to pee.
I join a couple of fellow smokers on the terrace and we get to talking. More and more people join us and we’re all laughing and having a good time Pretty soon I know their life stories (more or less).
There are people from Beijing, Moldova, Spain as well as all over France. Li, the guy from Beijing is going to cook me a chinese dinner and Cedric the pilot can get a plane for 50 Euros an hour flight time and we’re thinking Corsica! Floriane invites me to her housewarming party next week. I’m not the lone hag in the corner, yay!!!!!!! In fact, I think I’m becoming a Yoda figure for a couple of the girls.
I try to ignore the fact that every time I catch William’s eye, he’s glaring at me.
Dinner is great, despite the lack of turkey (you try to find a whole turkey in the south of France that doesn’t cost a million dollars).
I’m feeling pretty darn good about the whole thing, This may be the smoothest least dysfunctional thanksgiving I’ve ever had (except in 2005,when I spent it alone). I get home about 1AM and am greeted by a message from William telling me that he’s really pissed at me.
I call to find out why and he tells me it’s because his friends liked me so much they didn’t pay attention to him. When I realize he’s not joking, I angrily blither something semi-coherently and he hangs up on me.
You gotta love tradition.