We are having a rather staid Thanksgiving this year, but this wasn't always the case. My family has had our share of highs and lows and you could take our family's emotional temperature by the theme of the year. One sister had not one but two handicapped children (we are talking wheelchairs, developmental delays and true heartache), another faced divorce, another Mollie dealt with breast cancer (17 years ago and she's still doing fine).
One year was particularly hard. We were in the midst of Reaganomics and some of us were out of work. Some of us were giving our kids Phenobarbital for seizures, some of us were spending money we didn't have for wheelchairs and hydraulic lifts for our mini-vans. But all we could see on TV was the perfect family, with affluence abounding, healthy children and designer homes.
We were all a little shell-shocked. How does one give thanks when, frankly, we had to think creatively to come up with anything positive. Sure, Roger hadn't had any seizures that year, the twins were in a program for children with developmental delays and there was some talk of recovery around the corner. But it doesn't help when you feel that your medical, financial and other complicated issues of the daily grind are on life support.
But, frankly, you can't keep a bunch of lunatics down. We came up with a solution that lasted for years. It took some planning, a lot of patience and very little money. We had the anti-Thanksgiving!
We had it at our house, and the whole famdamily (my side) attended. Since we were all either broke or pretending to be broke, we held off on the fine china (it's just as well, since I don't have china service for 21). We managed to get our turkey at Fred Meyer for free since it happened that if you bought over a hundred dollars of other foods, the turkey was free! And, since we weren't doing the glamor thing, we used paper plates.
We also used those clear plastic glasses for our beverages. And since we were celebrating austerity, a guest was issued one (count it: ONE) glass at the beginning of the festivities. We'd put labels with our names on them so we didn't exchange viruses. But if you lost your cup, you were cut off beverages. It was amazing how we protected our glasses!
So try doing Thanksgiving for 21 for under $100.00. Just try!
Everybody brought food or wine. John and I provided the basics, turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, veggies - the works. One of my sisters would bring bread, another brother brought "Spam on a Stick" our official pre dinner munchie that year. My mom, God rest her soul, always brought pumpkin pie, and the California faction brought boxed wine.
We celebrated our humanity and did so with gusto. When the meal was finished, we packed up the debris and dumped it into the 50 gallon garbage can, lined with plastique, that was waiting in the corner of the 'dining' room. We enjoyed our boxed wine, played Monotony (Monopoly) 'til the wee hours, and just counted what blessings we could find.
And prayed for better times.
It worked. Not all Thanksgivings were that stunning, but after that we managed to celebrate our lives without china, silver, expensive wines and lace tablecloths. But economics improved enough that not only did we not have boxed wine, we had wine with corks! But we never forgot the astringency of that one Thanksgiving, and we learned to celebrate with humor.
We started having Thanksgiving with themes. We had cammo Thanksgivings, alternative turkey Thanksgivings (where we'd cook a turkey in deep fat) and other anti-Thanksgivings where we'd count our blessings, smoke a turkey and then all smoke cigars. The fun just kept rolling.
Over the years, our desperation lessened, but never our humor. It was sometimes tough to get us all together, but we managed, with our handicapped parking stickers, special needs kids, out of work folks (and in a family of our size, somebody was always out of work!). But a tradition was started.
So, today's Thanksgiving recipe is a recipe for an alternative Thanksgiving. Load up the kids, wheelchairs, controlled substances, Monopoly games with questionable markers (I liked the engagement ring) etc. and celebrate LIFE with those you love. Add love, frustration, cheap wine and apple juice. Mix in a little humility and a lot of tolerance, and voila, a perfect Thanksgiving.