This year, I celebrated my first traditional Thanksgiving in America since I was in high school. After high school, I moved an ocean and a continent away from my parents with whom I had spent every Thanksgiving prior. Although I observed Thanksgiving with friends throughout college, it has never lived up to the stereotypically traditional family Thanksgiving that we had this year.
On Thursday, I woke up to a frigid and quiet morning, and took my dad out on a quick run around the local square here in Carthage, Missouri. The air burned our noses and mouths as we gasped for air, but it was all worth it because we knew we could afford to eat an extra serving of dessert.
My brother and I got dressed in our Sunday best, and headed to the Salvation Army to help serve lunch to the needy. To our demise, we arrived behind fifty others trying to spread their good will. There were more volunteers in the kitchen than seats for the homeless and in need. After standing around and asking how we could help several times, we decided to leave with the promise that we would return on another soup kitchen day when they could actually use our help.
We headed over to my grandma’s house to reunite and feast with my aunts, uncles and cousins on my mother’s side of the family. The television was set to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the men went out to the farm to shoot guns, and my grandma worked steadily in the kitchen mashing potatoes and checking on the turkey as it browned perfectly.
At about 2:30pm, after the men had returned from their hunting adventure, and the women had plated all of the courses, ten of the VanZandt clan surrounded the dining room table, blessed the food and then loaded our plates with Thanksgiving specials: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce (out of the can, of course), yams (with marshmallows on top, of course), green bean casserole, and three types of freshly baked bread! We sat and talked about politics and shared stories about our past year. We took every chance possible to make sarcastic jabs at each other, and once the talking got stale, we cleared the table.
Now, clearing the table at our Thanksgiving occurs several times. We clear the main meal so that there’s enough space for the plentiful desserts: pumpkin pie, pecan pie, cheesecake, prune pudding and hard sauce, chocolate cake and cherry jubilee, sopapillas, whipped cream and fudge. Yes, we really have this many desserts!
At some point, the football games get turned on, the fancy dishes and silverware get washed and dried, and the newspapers get opened to prepare for the next day . . . Black Friday, an important part of the Thanksgiving tradition. In America, Thanksgiving is the marked beginning of the Christmas and New Year’s season. Each year, stores across America open at ridiculously early hours to sell items at slashed prices. You can find 30-70% off sales all across town. Sometimes, the first ten people into the store will receive a free doodad, leading customers to be a bit aggressive. This year I saw two of the most extreme things that I’ve ever seen, McDonald’s opens at 3am for Black Friday shoppers, and people camped in front of Target to be the first in line even though it was below freezing! Businesses and people go a little bit CRAZY for this day!
If I were to end this blog now, my international friends might think that we are a bit crazy, which is fair, but this is just part of the story. On Friday, after shopping, we feasted again in a similar manner, with my Dad’s side of the family!
I am so thankful for all of my friends and family, new and old. I have had such a blessed and fortunate life. Thank you especially for all of you who have supported me and others along life-changing journeys. Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you survived the turkey and dessert coma, along with endurance shopping!
Crazy Shoppers Camping in Front of Target for Black Friday