Column: Gobble, gobble

I await this event all year. No, I’m not talking about Shark Week (the greatest seven days of the year, mind you). I’m talking about Thanksgiving. The day American families come together, give thanks and collectively strengthen our reputation for being obese. Not a terrible way to spend a day, right?

This day has come to imply so many things to me over my lifetime, some of which are good, some of which are bad and many of which are just strange.

I guess I’ll be predictable and start with the good. The celebration of Turkey Day always means quality time with the whole fam-damily at our cabin. In theory, this sounds great. And I’m not saying it isn’t.

The positive? A cabin Thanksgiving means quality time in seclusion with nine people I rarely see anymore. The negative? Well, a cabin Thanksgiving means quality time in seclusion with nine people I rarely see anymore.

Let me explain. First off, I really do love spending time with my family. My mom and sister cook a bunch of tasty-goodie things and my little brother teaches me guitar. My dad runs around cleaning like a turkey with his head cut off. My older brother tries to drink everyone under the table.

Finally, I am given the almighty task of making microwaveable Stouffer’s stuffing. I also get to pour canned cranberry onto a plate. My mom knows to give me the more complicated dishes. Yes, we have this Thanksgiving thing down to a science.

But then we must factor in the extended family and what they bring to the table. First, enter my dad’s sister. I always forget that my dad’s a Southerner until his other Kentucky relatives come to hang out. I don’t know what it is, but when my dad and aunt come together, all rules of proper English go out the window. Suddenly hotels become ho-tails, wrestlers become wrastlers and the rest of time I can’t even understand what the hell they are saying.

Conversation isn’t the only thing my aunt brings to the party (or, I guess, takes from the party). She also brings this awesome carrot casserole every year that she swears she makes but I think we all really know she buys. And by awesome, I mean awful. Last I checked carrots were orange and come in the form of a solid.

Oddly enough, the carrot casserole has become somewhat of a family tradition. We can always count on it to be there, and for no one to go near it. Except for my mother, who likes to pity-eat things sometimes so people don’t feel bad.

The next predictable item on the Thanksgiving agenda is the basic awkward dinner talk. I can always count on my dad to jokingly ask my brother-in-law to say grace. I say jokingly, because never in my life has my family actually prayed before a meal. Like clockwork, my brother-in-law will respond with, “Okay … grace!” We all sympathy laugh, and then devour whatever’s in arm’s reach.

Once we get to the point where we’re comfortably grazing on things and no longer feeling like the Donner Party, we start holding an actual conversation. This often includes my older brother bringing up a random topic so he can argue with people and prove he knows more about it.

Last year, the subject of choice was autism. My brother decided Thanksgiving dinner was the best time to tell my cousin (who works with autistic children) he doesn’t believe in the disability. Naturally, all hell broke loose and the conversation ended with a phone call to Kaiser to hear the exact definition of the term. Needless to say, I anxiously await the impending debate that will ensue this year.

The next item to be discussed will undoubtedly be my aunt’s desire to own property in Oregon. You probably think this sounds normal enough. Until my aunt explains she wants her Oregon citizenship so she has the option of assisted suicide. Just in case she ever gets cancer. Which she’s convinced she will.

Usually when this topic comes up, my mom will chime in and ask us to go around the table and say what we’re thankful for. Yup. People really do this. My first instinct is to say I’m thankful for my mom putting an end to the assisted suicide talk. But I refrain.

All in all, I really do look forward to Thanksgiving. My family may have its quirks, but whose doesn’t? And I appreciate them all the more for it. The food isn’t so bad either … except for the carrot casserole. So I hope you all have a very happy Turkey Day. Eat up, and steer clear of those convos about “fake” disorders and death.

AMANDA HARDWICK is currently up in the mountains chowin’ down. She won’t have Internet, but you can send her e-mails she can’t read at aghardwick@ucdavis.edu.

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