by Hugh Gilmore
Though highly touted as America’s favorite holiday, Thanksgiving is not easy on everyone’s nerves. Family members who have avoided one another all year because of some shared loathing are now thrust together for what often turns out to be the longest day of the year.
New in-laws or significant others are also brought along and asked to mesh with people who themselves don’t get along with any of the “toxic” others at the meal. Glowing over this scene is the Hallmark greeting card aura which insists that generous helpings of turkey and cranberry jelly bring out the best in everyone. For this one day a year, all the rats and mice are expected to behave like sweet little bunnies.
This year, the presidential election dimly receding in the rear view mirror, there will be fights galore. At first, everyone will respectfully agree not to discuss politics and all its entanglements (religion, race, economics, medical benefits, elites vs. hillbillies), and especially two American people whose initials are D.T and H.C.
But we all know what will happen, don’t we? Someone’s going to start. Someone’s always going to start. And then the other hothead jumps in. And everyone else will gracefully hang back. Until. Until they can’t stand it anyone and join the brawl. All but the host, or hostess, who can slip out to the kitchen and start making “mouth martinis” (Take swig of gin, swig of vermouth, scrape lemon peel against lower incisors, push pickled onion into mouth, swirl with tongue, jump up and down, swallow with big gasp. Take one of these every time a dish is returned to kitchen. Take till the “the debate” ends.
Here at the Local, we’ve thought of a few ways, nearly all of them conversational gambits, that might distract the crowd at the trough:
Pick Up Fork And Glass: ting, thing, ting. Say: “Hey gang, guess what? This is the 45th anniversary of the great D.B. Cooper’s leap from a Boeing aircraft with $200,000 in ransom money. He jumped from the tail landing gear wearing a parachute. He’s never been caught. And it all happened on Thanksgiving eve, 1971!”
With luck, the conversation will divert. Someone might even say, “Let’s drink a toast to him!”
And you’ll say, “That’s a very appropriate gesture. Why, did you know, that Thanksgiving Eve, according to bartenders around the country, is the number one night for bar drinking?”
Someone might object, “Why that’s absurd. New Year’s Eve is the biggest drinking night.”
Nope. It’s Black Wednesday that pulls them in. Most Americans have the next day off. It’s not a religious or ethnic holiday. Hardly anyone wants to entertain the night before they have to spend all day cooking a big meal. People come in from out of town and see old friends, schoolmates, neighborhood pals and so on. All of them head off to their favorite taproom, bar, restaurant, club, speakeasy, whatever. Plus, it’s a great way to get away from the tyranny of the idea of the happy family.
Here’s where you might say, “Look, let’s just all be glad that darned old election is over and get into some fantastic Thanksgiving fun facts. Anyone got one?”
For instance, if they all stopped texting on their smartphones for a moment and headed over to Google, they might discover that the one person who most influenced President Lincoln to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday was Sarah Josepha Hale, the reformer and magazine writer who wrote the glorious children’s rhyme, “Mary had a little lamb.”
You might also quiet the political snarls at the table by saying, “Who can find the world’s biggest turkey statue?”
Bingo, it’s in Frazee, Minnesota, which bills itself as the Turkey Capital of the World. It is over 20 feet tall. It is a popular roadside attraction and the biggest monument to the turkey in the world. In fact, ever since 1984, Frazee has been known as “The Home of ‘Big Tom’ The Biggest Turkey in the World.” After a while though, critics of Big Tom thought his proportions were weird, so they tore him down and replaced him with a better-looking Big Tom in 1998. He has close to 4,000 separate fiberglass feathers that weigh over 5000 pounds, and took the D.W.O. Fiberglass Company 2000 hours to make – and another eight hours to install.
By now, your formerly feuding family will have stopped fighting and begun eating quietly so as not to miss hearing the rest of the long scroll of Thanksgiving fun facts you’ve assembled for them.
As dessert arrives, for example, you can gas them silly with, “Why, did you know, according to pumpkinnook.com, the largest pumpkin pie ever baked was made in New Bremen, Ohio. It was 20-feet in diameter and weighed 3,699 pounds!”
And so on. If you prepared a long-enough list you can keep everyone fascinated, and perhaps even sober, for the rest of the evening. Right up till they all rush out to join the Black Friday shoppers. You can relax then, satisfied to know you’ve helped avoid a Thanksgiving family melee based on the recent political elections.
The Local comes through, once again.
Hugh Gilmore has written numerous books, easily available in both print and ebook formats, including: “Scenes from a Bookshop,” a collection of nearly-true stories based on a bookshop he ran on Chestnut Hill Avenue for 10 years.