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12:06:2005 Entry: "Ann : Feral Thanksgivings"

Feral Thanksgivings

When I was a kid, we never went anywhere for Thanksgiving. It was just me and my parents eating a silly bird. Even when we lived in southern Massachusetts and my dad's parents lived in the Boston area, we stayed at home. They didn't come down to see us either as they physically couldn't. My mom didn't like her in-laws much. Shortly after we moved to Colorado, my dad's mom died, so our once dinner for three now included my grandfather. I didn't like my grandfather much. He was ancient and from another century, loud and pompous, smelled like an old person and he scared me. For about five years or so until he died, I had to endure him for Thanksgiving. I then decided I hated Thanksgiving, for that reason and for many others. At some point in high school, I think I might've gone to a friend's house for Thanksgiving, but I can't recall preciseley. If I did, it was a welcome relief to get away from Grandpa.

In early college, I think it was back to me and my parents again, mom slaving away in the kitchen all day, getting crabby if anyone talked to her while she was busy, and dad being grumpy and incommunicable. Then things changed in 1982 when my grandmother came to live with us. Now I had to endure an old person again. See, it's not that I disliked old people, I just wasn't used to them. Unlike people with normal family structures who have brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins and a couple sets of grandparents ad infinitum that they see at Christmas and Thanksgiving and in the summer for family reunions and off and on throughout the year, I just had 3, then 2, then 1 grandparent(s) (my mom's dad died before I was three) that I rarely saw. They were practically strangers, and strangers were strange. Essentially, I was a feral animal when it came to strangers, captive, yet feral, not the lash out and bite feral kind (unless seriously provoked) but the run and hide feral kind, or maybe it was the freeze in the headlights and withdraw inside feral kind.

1982 was when Stan and I got together. After Thanksgiving that year he told me a terrifying tale of how he was coming back from the small town on the eastern plains where his parents lived. On his way home after the Thanksgiving holidays, he was chased by some Dekes and Delberts from Nebrasks who wanted to kill him because he had his brights on (which were stuck). He managed to evade them thanks to an unintentional intervention from a trucker. He drove for miles and miles with his lights off in pitch black night to lose them.

If I recall correctly, that was probably the last Thanksgiving Stan and I ate apart. I suspect for the following years until we moved in 1989, we spent the holiday seasons on the road a lot, alternating every-other-year at his parents, and then at mine, and also switching off for Christmas too. I experienced feral animal in the headlights syndrome a lot at his parents, as they usually had other relatives there too. Fortunately, Stan, who was another feral soul, would run and hide with me a lot. If anything it was his sister that would lash out and bite, but that's another story alltogether.

As I look back on that time, I truly miss those holidays on the road. The desolate eastern plains of Colorado, although creepy in their grey decay and stark solitude, offered a strange comfort while inside an old Chevy or a plush second hand Ford with the heater blowing, insulated and protected in my bubble until I had to get out and pee at the Fort Morgan McDonald's.

Then we moved to Madison. 45,000 students enrolled at the UW, and I felt I was the only one staying in town. The place is desolate this time of year. The first year Stan fixed a bird with a pommegranite sauce. It was delicious. I forgot what we did the next year as by then we had our own house. But I think it was the following year we went to a friend's sister's house with her husband and mother and step-dad and possibly some other relatives of hers. Talk about feeling like a charity case. Poor Ann and Stan have nowhere to go on Thanksgiving, I could just hear her thought-processes saying. Poor Ann and Stan only have one juice pitcher. Poor Ann and Stan...

Poor Ann and Stan for having ever gotten involved with that person, but I digress. That would take up a whole novel. And maybe some day it will.

The following years it was just Stan and I again. At this point, I was becoming particularly bothered by Thanksgiving. It was depressing. See, I wasn't depressed that I couldn't afford to travel to see my parents. I didn't want to see my parents at a time when society or the media dictates "thou must travel to see family." I wanted to see them, or not see them, on my own terms. And even if someone gave me money for plane fare, I'd just spend it on art supplies. Maybe it wasn't Thanksgiving I hated as much as the media hype, and those who subscribed to the notion that there's something wrong with you if you're not surrounded by at least 8.6 other people during this holiday.

In the mid-90s, Thanksgiving changed again, if ever so shortly. In either '94 or '95 we spent the day with Tim, Marilyn and Paula, people Stan worked with at the time. We got a little drunk, laughed a lot and ate turkey Marilyn fixed. It was probably the best Thanksgiving I ever had. No family to worry about, just fun people. Paula is now living with her long-time boyfriend, but sadly, the others haven't fared so well. Tim is still very sick, and Marilyn died of lung cancer a few years ago.

We tried to recapture that Thanksgiving the following year, either '95 or '96, but Tim wasn't there, there was a larger "work crowd", so it was more like big time party instead of an intimate get-together. I remember a particularly annoying couple that I'll call Trish and Fritz. Trish was a typical Wisconsin woman who talked about uninteresting women things. Fritz yabbered on and on about modems, and finally asked us, "So, are you two in a band?" The year after that we invited Tim and his roommate Matt over. We actually found a Thanksgiving when all of us had off! That was the last Thanksgiving with other people. Ever. After that, Tim started going to his parents more, and he'd come back and complain about it. Why he'd now consistently choose to go eat with his family that didn't understand him and who drove him crazy, rather than choosing to eat with us, who he claimed to be his best friends, is a bit odd; but then again I don't understand the inner workings of mama's boys, which Tim, by his own admission, is.

And now I've come full circle. Alone, with just my pets and Stan...

Oh! How could I have forgotten!!! Gaaah! Yes, there was another Thanksgiving from Hell somewhere in there...somewhere...somewhere..., ah here it is maybe, sandwiched somewhere in between the creepy "Poor Ann and Stan only have one juice pitcher" and the fun Tim-Marilyn-Paula time was a very creepy...now was it Thanksgiving or Halloween? My mind's failing me. Were there two times? Maybe we were never there for Thanksgiving. Maybe it SEEMS like Thanksgiving because it was grey and cold and depressing and it involved a chilly trip across the southeastern farmlands of Wisconsin. And I remember sitting in their living room after the meal with Stan, them, their kid, and a fellow art grad student we brought with us from Madison at their request (I'll call her Melody), just sitting, full, not saying a word, except for Melody who interjected the silences every 20 minutes or so with variations on "yeah, those pumpkins we carved sure turned out well." No, I'm hoping that wasn't Thanksgiving. Despite the way I've felt about Thanksgiving, being my most disliked holiday of my past, not because of what the holiday stands for in the purest sense, but because what the media hype has made it into, despite the fact that Thanksgiving depresses me because of its cold greyness and its personal symbolism of death (grandparents and pets), despite all that, I still wouldn't want that memory as part of my Thanksgiving memories. No, that was just a fall dinner, not related to Thanksgiving, that I went to with people I no longer know. And I'll just leave it at that.

As I was saying, I've come full circle. I am alone again with just my immediate family: Stan and the pets. But instead of feeling like a societal outcast, I rather enjoy it. I wouldn't be able to compose this entry if I was frantically getting ready for a flight. I wouldn't be able snuggle with my dogs on a cold November morning if I was flying across country. Instead of waiting for mom and dad and in-laws and distant relatives once removed to arrive at my doorstep, I'll only be waiting for Stan to return from his shift, as people in institutions need to eat on Thanksgiving too. (Something that the media fails to mention is all the people working jobs on Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and all the holidays, so that they can put food on their table, and provide services to those in need and society in general so that the world doesn't completely shut down).

For the first time, I think Thanksgiving might just be turning around to be my favorite holiday. Not just because I learned to appreciate the comfort in being sad, not just because I enjoy solitude and cold fall days, but because I actually feel sincerely thankful for something. I have all four animals with me today. All the cats and the Pug came out of anaesthesia after teeth cleaning, the fleas didn't take over, Plato's abscess didn't cause complications, Caligula's cancer was fully excised, Persephone's conditions are being medicated, Lucifer Sam's high fever was brought down with medical attention, and Stan was able to catch him before he completely fell off the retaining wall on his leash, and Persephone came back home after disappearing. With a different outcome to any one of those scenarios, I could've felt quite differently. And I'm thankful that I don't.


The best Thanksgiving I ever had (since I was a kid and still enjoyed holidays) was in 1998. My Dad, friend Don and I took a 50 mile bike ride out east of town on a glorious 70 degree day and then had a homecooked meal. My Mom wasn't too thrilled because she was the one who fixed the meal and would have rather been out on her bike.

Actually, it was the bike ride that made the day - the dinner was extraneous. (nothing personal, Mom)

Holidays are so fraught with stress and drama - I think most people would just as soon crawl under and rock as endure them. Count yourselves lucky!

Posted by greenthumb @ 11:23:2005:03:30 PM CST

50 miles! Wow, that's like Olympic marathon endurance stuff! I don't even have a bike here, except an exercise one. Each time I'd think of getting a bike, something would happen like I'd need the money for something else, and then the muggings along the bike trails started happening here, so, well, I gave up.

Oh the stress and drama of the holidays is something I certainly don't miss. Every Christmas my dad made me cry for one reason or another. Even a few years ago they made me cry, 1000 miles away.

Then there was the time when Stan got a headache on Thanksgiving and had to lie down and couldn't continue eating dinner (back in the 1980s) and my SIL said "leave it to Stan to ruin it for everybody". Everybody!?! Seems like everyone else was still at the table eating. It was poor Stan with the headache!

Nope, don't miss it. Dogs are the best dinner companions anyway.

Posted by Ann @ 11:23:2005:04:31 PM CST

I LOVE road biking. I wish I'd discovered it years ago before there was so much traffic.

All the dogs here are enjoying salmon fillet. Don bought a large quantity (4-5 lbs.) 2 years ago and he was going to smoke it, but never did. So it just got old in the feezer (i.e., freezer burn) so finally just thawed it out, cooked it and gave it to the dogs. They were in heaven!

Posted by greenthumb @ 11:23:2005:05:08 PM CST

I'm glad things are going ggod for you this year! Seems like a good run of good luck.

I just found out my in-laws may not make it till 7 pm or even later, but that is work related (sort of).

Oh well.

Posted by Dawn @ 11:23:2005:07:22 PM CST

I'm confused about the 'those pumpkins are really great' Halloween/Thanks Giving time too. It seems that it was around Halloween, but there were no trick or treaters. The meal was clearly a Thanks Giving meal. It's all like some strange nightmare, and I think it was more of a Thanks Giving. The 'those pumpkins are really great' woman had no other family to spend the holidays with either. It seems that it was some sort of Thanks Giving (slightly early) for those of us you were familyless residents of Wisconsin.

I love spending Thanks Giving with you, the cats and dogs.

The best Turkey was the Kosher one we had the year we had Matt and Tim over. We have to get another one of those turkeys again sometime - even if it is so much food that we won't finish it until June.

Posted by Stan @ 11:23:2005:07:44 PM CST

greenthumb: Mmmm...salmon filet...That's quite the dog treat!

Dawn: Thanks! Actually, it's really a lousy bunch of luck that turned out with good endings.

Stan: Those pumpkins turned out really great, didn't they?

But seriously, do you think it actually could've been BEFORE Halloween, which would explain the lack of trick or treaters? See, it was on a Saturday (I remember our waterbed sprang a leak that day too...ugh) and maybe Halloween was in the middle of the week the following week? I mean why would you carve pumpkins *after* Halloween? It doesn't make sense.

Sorry I remembered that whole episode. I really wish it could be erased from my memory.

But those pumpkins did really turn out great, doncha think?

Posted by Ann @ 11:23:2005:07:53 PM CST

If there would have been some salmon moose we all would have been dead instead of looking at those great punpkins. I'm thinking it was after Halloween and the punpking were left over, making the celebration a sort of charity case early Thanks Giving for poor artist types like us.

Enough about bad ideas though, I'm shairing the opinion that a Thanks Giving with dogs is the best holiday of all possible holidays.

Posted by Stan @ 11:23:2005:08:12 PM CST

Or...it WAS Halloween night and there were no trick or treaters because the good people of that town wouldn't let their kids go to *that* house. If you know what I mean.

::::shudder:::: thinking about that just makes me want to take a shower.

Posted by Ann @ 11:23:2005:08:16 PM CST

As a child we all met up at Saint John's mom's house for thanksgiving. It was nice- a huge gathering. Now I know Ma would have liked to see her mother and some other stuff I didn't notice as a kid. Then we moved to MT and my friends would spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with their friends or boyfriends and I was appalled! Holidays are for family!!! Except that I never spent most holidays with my real family, just a bunch of people who thought of me as an outsider.

My Grandma Laura couldn't ever join St John's family- But due to travel conditions and how far apart places in MT are, for a while my parents met with us at my in-laws house for Thanksgiving. And it wasn't a big deal at all! Chantz isn't overly fond of my mother- but he would never keep me or the kids from her.

I must say the best famliy gatherings have been the ones I got to spend with my Dad's family. There may not have been a thanksgiving in there, but passover was a blast. And every moment spent with my very poor, uneducated, illiterate potty-mouth Grandma Laura, who is now relaxing in heaven smoking a cigarette, will be forever cherished as the best family moments in my life. I miss her and my real dad.

Happy T-day! I promise not to bring you down!

Posted by Dawn @ 11:24:2005:09:53 AM CST

Holidays are for family, except the term family isn't just the people who raised you. It's the people you care about, and you don't need to be related to them by blood or water or paper.

I consider my pets my family.

Back in the days when I used to go to a gay bar (I'm not gay, but I have a friend who is and Stan and I used to go to "his" bar because it was fun...for a while) they would serve a Thanksgiving dinner there, because the people who would hang out there were sort of like "family" (to eachother, not to me) and a lot of them might have been rejected from their own parental family, or they didn't want the hassle of having to go to Thanksgiving back at the farm and being asked a lot of questions about the big, scary city of Madison and why they aren't married yet such a nice young man should be married already! I always thought I wanted to do something like that, go to that gay bar, for example, on Thanksgiving, but then there's the rejection thing like, "what's a straight woman doing here?" I wouldn't fit in any better there than I would at my own parent's house, or Stan's relative's house, or anywhere.

Posted by Ann @ 11:24:2005:10:12 AM CST

That Holidays were for family is just something I thought when I was still young. It was something my step dad, st john, shoveled into my poor young brain. I guess I left that out, oops.

It is really hard to relay sarcasm over the internet, lol! I am glad they had a place to go at all, you know? It is very tough to be yourself around family sometimes.

Posted by Dawn @ 11:25:2005:12:54 PM CST

I knew you were being sarcastic Dawn, I was just adding my own thoughts to the "family holidays" thing. :)

Posted by Ann @ 11:25:2005:01:02 PM CST

Oh! Ok, I thought I made a boo boo. Nevermind then!

Posted by Dawn @ 11:25:2005:08:59 PM CST

By Ann @ 10:00 AM CST:12:06:05 ..::Link::..

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