In the early years, we never got much vacation to ourselves. Family travel and events chewed up every available day of discretionary leave. Understanding the clock hanging over the heads of our aging parents, we’d suck it up and dutifully hit the road – especially over the winter holidays.
Alternating the Christmas event between respective parental households, we’d either drive 1,000 miles to Florida to spend a week with his parents, or we’d enjoy a quiet morning rising from our own beds and then haul children, food and presents down to the Trailer Park for the annual flea market and freak show for the rest of the day.
It was the Trailer Park Lifestyle, however, that eventually gave us just one holiday for our own little clan. With all of the divorces in my family, Thanksgiving was a nightmare.
My sister and brother were often stuck with complex “prisoner exchange” situations, moving their children from one place to another – while attempting to satisfy the familial requirements of the “spouse du jour”. If they didn’t show up for at least three meals during the day? Someone was going to be cranky.
Chaotic, at best. Explosive, on at least one occasion. We’d generally return home feeling battered – and bitter.
The solution? The Trailer Park adopted a “time-shift”, moving the group gathering to the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We took turns hosting the meal, it was generally “pot luck” style, and it worked well for many years.
Miracle of miracles, this now allowed for my family of four to create our own tradition. Given that my ex-husband and i are dirty hippies share “non-traditional” tendencies, we decided “pizza, beer and football – in pajamas” would be the order of the day. Oh, and we were ridiculously fucking thankful for all of these things*.
The kids were still in elementary school, and i think they both took some sort of perverse pleasure in letting their friends and teachers know that we ate pizza instead of turkey and trimmings. Not just any pizza, but home made – from hand-tossed crusts, to customized toppings. One of the few culinary activities i could handle…
On occasion i’d pick up a stray from the office. Typically single male engineers, away from family and not planning to brave the highways for a taste of Mom’s gravy**. Rather than surprise them with the meal, i’d warn them first. “Pizza, beer, football. Pajamas optional.”
This year, my adult children were at my place for Thanksgiving – and wanted to do it again. The “gourmet pizza buffet” was on… The kids and i were joined by two of my close friends, and a slew of their own for perhaps our best Thanksgiving yet.
i stumbled through a 5 mile “Turkey Trot” in the morning, then slept for a couple hours. The Boy just slept til noon. The Girl joined her boyfriend’s extended family for a more traditional meal in the early afternoon. Somewhere around 8:00 pm? It just came together…
Laid back. No formal “seating”, we grazed. Shared nibbles of unique pizzas, lovingly crafted to our own tastes***. Alcohol may have been involved. Billiards and music happened. Talking smack. Messing with each other. Tripping over a big brown dog, awash with canine joy for all the attention and floor scraps.
It was damn near perfect…
* Not just the opportunity to avoid dealing with The Trailer Park.
** Absolutely not, under any circumstances, a euphemism…
*** There was enough meat on The Boy’s pizza to feed a cannibal army. Must have hit his stomach like a brick.
daisyfae – you have just given me an idea for christmas!!!!!!
Dollface, I lost you on my sidebar for nearly a week… it was like losing a limb.
Don’t worry about the boy Daisy, we men can handle large amounts of meat… wait a second…
Anyway, we have this thing in Australia coming up called christmas, it should be fun, I don’t think I can swing it so pizza and pj’s are involved though…
I love your Thanksgiving way of thinking daisyfae! Since our family was rarely on the same continent at the same time, one of our best Christmases was the one we decided to celebrate, last minute, in November. No preparation, no gifts, no turkey, no decorations, no stress. We pulled out my grandfather’s old records, decided to roll in NYE for the hell of it, drank champagne and had a blast. In hindsight, only pajamas would have made it perfect.
My mom use to bring a stray home every Thanksgiving. Someone from the office or the church who had nowhere to go. The older I got the more I appreciated her thoughtfulness. But sometimes she’d bring home a weirdo. Those dinners were wrapped up quickly.
obviously the kids had a wonderful time with the pizza party holiday since they wanted to recreate the magic….i think people stress out too much during this time of year. they want their holiday to be in perfect alignment with what the media has driven home as “the norm”. congratulations on stepping out of the box. i like your laid back style….no doubt memories were made.
my family tradition was typical middle America – turkey and all the fixin’s. but, coming back-to-back, Thanksgiving and Christmas, made for a spare tire around the midsection. your plan at least gives some variety. kudos!
sugar, i am now convinced we are cousins! ;~D our turkey day was centered around pinot noir who the hell knows what we ate besides turkey…*snickering* xoxoxoxo
nursemyra – it works. made fruit pizza for dessert (sugar cookie crust, cream cheese/whipped frosting, and fruit, chocolate, nuts on top). yummy and easy….
jimmy – dare i ask which limb? 🙂
alex – we pretty much sit around and bash junk food for christmas. cookies for dinner… oh, yeah!
tNb – those are the best. shame we can’t do more ‘impromptu’ celebrations… plan, plan, plan… = blah, blah, blah…
unbearable banishment – i’m sure a few of my strays thought we were the weirdos… but it was usually fun. and a couple of the guys still talk about it, 10+ years later…
lynn – i’ve watched my mom get her expectations stomped on for so many years… she wants that ‘Norman Rockwell” thing. The problem was that Norman didn’t paint trailer parks! i like to try to surprise her with something fun (jello shots, for example), but she usually ends up disappointed… expect nothing = delighted with whatever happens!
gnukid – christmas dinner is mostly chocolate, baked and full of butter. i’ve had the kids ask me if taco bell is open on christmas day, because they wanted food… (sigh)
savannah – i likes your style, cousin! build the meal around what REALLY matters! “Bird? Huh? What bird?”
i think the guy who painted trailer parks was a boozed up jackson pollock. (never liked his art much)
My mom always brings in a few stragglers and strays for Thanksgiving. We have had some giant kick-ass parties with the beer flowing freely. Yes, there was turkey, but the liquid bread was also prominently on the table. Maybe I’ll suggest pizza for Christmas.
As a voracious meat-eater, I know the problem isn’t the meat going in. It’s when it’s time to let it back out. Bring a heavy book and make sure no one has to use that toilet for an hour.
We had strays for so many years it became a tradition, and people would start hinting for their invitations in early October. It was a mixture of the singles you describe and foreign types who had never experienced Thanksgiving. It was strictly traditional fare, though. The homemade pizza is for Valentine’s Day.
squirrel queen – “liquid bread”. and it is good…. stressin’ for the holidays blows. eat. drink. visit. talk. drink. fairly simple…
renal failure – he has his own bathroom. we do not enter. it is a HazMat clean up zone on most occasions… he claims, however, that his sisters “vegetarian chick bean farts” are worse.
chris – i typically went for the drunk boyz, who would at least appreciate the football and beer part. foreign folks? they’d have been deeply confused by it all…
One year when we were poor, we had venison roast for Thanksgiving. Probably more authentic than turkey. I’m thinking pizza and chocolate would definitely do for Giftmas. Maybe with my cousin’s turkey enchiladas thrown in.
My boys & I have been celebrating T-day with a smorgasbord of junk food for years!
Seems to me the BEST way.
This year was ribs, chicken wings, sausages, home fries and pumpkin pie.
It’s my only concession to “tradition”.
silverstar – turkey enchiladas? oh, now THAT is taking tradition somewhere extra yummy!
@blazngScarlet – i used turkey pepparoni. my single concession. and your t-day buffet is what we do for the week of christmas… damn the waistline, full speed ahead (uuuuuuurp!)
Being a newbie in a new land, last year I had Indian food for THanksgiving on Thanksgiving. It was glorious.
Dirty hippie pizza sounds much better than turkey in my book!
dave – Indian food is a great alternative as well. but the pizza buffet? worked like magic this year…