Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I’m not really sure why or when it was that I decided this fact. I love Christmas too. And Halloween. And the Fourth of July. Memorial Day is always close to my birthday and when I was a kid back on Cork Drive we’d have neighborhood Memorial Day cook-outs. Plus folks always displayed the flag too and I like holidays where people remember to display the flag.
Back to Turkey Day though. There are lots of things I remember liking about it while I was just a wee bugger. Most of my memories revolve around football. And gravy. Football may be the single most important factor in my holiday rankings. Don’t get me wrong, gravy is important too but I’m 38 and you can’t suck down that much fat and cholesterol anymore without Father Time erasing years off the end of your life each time you do it. I mean seriously, anything that has a line in the recipe detailing how much fat is needed for the end product and involves actually skimming visible floating fat off the top is probably going to be on your heart’s enemies list.
So you have to fight the gravy fix. Sometimes you replace it with 7 or 8 crescent rolls. There is so much oil in these bad boys they will soak right through your napkin without any assistance from butter or gravy or that stuff that sits in the bottom of the turkey pan after you cook it. That’s some good stuff right there. We’d always have scalloped potatoes too. Oh….potatoes…cheese…butter… Can you feel that? I can. It’s an arterial blockage. Damn you cursed genetics!
I know cranberry sauce is a traditional Turkey Day deal. And I love tradition. But seriously, c’mon man. That stuff is awful. And it’s not a sauce. It’s more like fancy jello.
Football is like a time marker for me. Music is the same way. At least until about 1993 when grunge killed the hair bands. Poison Forever! How do you remember your Thanksgivings? Here’s a quick example of how I remember mine.
T-Day 1977. Bears beat the Lions 31-14 with Bo Rather hauling in a long TD pass. Why do I remember? Well, we were moving from Pittsburgh to Chicago and suddenly I had to be a Bears fan. It felt weird, unnatural. Plus I was 7 years-old and moving is a big deal when you’re in 2nd grade. Plus I got to play Myles Standish in our class play.
T-Day 1978. Lions beat the Broncos 17-14. Why do I remember? We drove back to Pittsburgh to visit Grandad and Grandma and Rick Upchurch almost took a punt back for a TD. That’s a pretty damn exciting thing to see when you’re 8. Of course your frame of reference for really damn exciting things is pretty limited too.
T-Day 1980. Bears beat the Lions 23-17 when Dave Williams returned the overtime kickoff 95 yards for a TD. Why do I remember? We were over at our next door neighbor’s house eating bird and I tried to snag some dip on some triscuits. But my Dad put the kibosh on it because I was sick or something and he thought the dip would only make it worse. I was pretty ticked at the time because I was 10 and dip is like a major food group to a 10 year old boy.
T-Day 1982. Giants beat the Lions 13-6 when Lawrence Taylor took an interception 97 yards the other way for a TD. Why do I remember? It was the freaking strike year! Football was finally back. We almost had a Thanksgiving without football. That’s like the Fourth of July without fireworks. Or an Oliver Stone film without half-truths, misrepresentations and outright deceptions.
T-Day 1983. Lions beat the Steelers 45-3. Why do I remember? My buddy and his family were over at our house celebrating the day and I had to listen to how bad the Steelers played. And this was coming from Bengals fans. That’s like the French telling the Germans how to run a war.
T-Day 1993. Dolphins beat the Cowboys 16-14. Why do I remember? This was the Leon Lett game in the snow in Dallas. Plus it was my first Thanksgiving as an adult. I was out of college and had a job. Coming home felt a little different that year. At least until I watched Home Alone after the game. I still love that movie.
T-Day 1998. Lions beat the Steelers 19-16. Why do I remember? We were at Mom’s folk’s house and referee Phil Luckett blew the coin toss in overtime and the Steelers lost. I don’t really like watching the Steelers with other people. If you are not taking it as seriously as me, I have a tendency to be unhappy with you.
More than any other holiday, Thanksgiving, to me, is associated with coming home. In the late 70’s we’d drive back to Pittsburgh to see my grandparents. In college, I’d come home for a full week which consisted of playing EA Sports NHL Hockey all day with my friends on the Sega, going to Sneakers for beers which always led to an impromptu high school reunion, then coming home and eating all the leftovers. Bird. Stuffing. Even the potato peels. One year we warmed them up in the microwave and just added some salt and ketchup. Mmmm. Most of the vitamins are in the peels. Seriously. You can look it up.
Furthermore, you only have to go to work for three days. You get two Fridays. Back when Friday night was actually different than every other night (meaning pre-Riley, Kinsey and Bailey) having two Fridays was pretty cool. Plus it is the unofficial start of Christmas shopping season. The only time of the year that you’ll consider heading to Best Buy to get your little sister Steve Perry’s Greatest Hits. Yeah, I was surprised to learn that he had actually had hits and that they were great. I’m not kidding. Besides “Sherry” and that song with Kenny Loggins what did he do? He’s a legend with Journey, but on his own?
Anyway, Christmas shopping means the mall. And if you grew up in the 80’s like me, going to the mall is a pilgrimage. You’re drawn to it. Calling you home to a place in your past when things were simpler. When all you worried about was making sure you had enough money to get some Sbarro’s pizza and new threads at Chess King.
Yes – Thanksgiving! It’s more than just bird and mashed potatoes. It’s the only time of year that everyone cares what the Detroit Lions are doing.