The Thanksgiving Survival Guide is brought to you by the creators of the Disney Drinking Series and the Vodka-Assisted Home Improvement Project, and as such can result in disaster if taken at all seriously.
Food and Family. Inseparable elements of the holiday institution, and the source of a gravy-boatload of toil and anxiety. What would Thanksgiving be without rooms full of relatives, and hours spent preparing, hosting, slaving, cooking, cleaning, dousing fires and generally missing football? Why, it would be nice and relaxing, actually. Think about it, when was the last time you had a Thursday off, and wholly to yourself?
We are all too foolish and sentimental to take advantage of the four day weekend, but before we turn our homes into bed-and-breakfasts for unwanted, un-paying guests, exploring the following may help reduce the trauma of another Thanksgiving.
Phase 1 – Preparation
Fill your house with booze. The Uncle Harry that gets drunk and obnoxious every year is positively insufferable when he, and you, is sober. Embrace the inevitability and prepare for it. Buy a handle (1.75-liter bottle) of generic vodka and leave it in the open. When one of your relations bellows for a cocktail, mix it from this bottle. Those that would invade your home and complain about the quality of sweat-sock filtered vodka from a plastic decanter are unworthy of the stash of Grey Goose hidden in your freezer.
Oh yes, a critical facet of Phase 1 is the hoarding of your fine alcohol. Also important is remembering to get in a stabilizing cocktail or two before the trouble starts.
Phase 2 – Pacification
Put any of several members of your family in the same building, and there are going to be issues. The Bloody Mary you should have had before your guests started arriving (see Phase 1) will help soften the impact. Still, most of your day is going to be dedicated to loss prevention.
Something is going to break. Something is going to burn. You are going to discover several things you have forgotten. Your brother, or father, or whomever is the true caveman in your family is going to start the customary social battle with his unsolicited commentary about “the gays.” Aunt Marge’s Pekingese is going to bite that one child who cannot get it into his head that the little b’stard of a dog doesn’t like to be touched by anyone but Aunt Marge. Your friend who reliably brings a bottle of exceptional vodka each year, which just as reliably finds its way deep into the freezer, will for some reason show up with a worthless Zinfandel.
Only a few of the typical Thanksgiving disasters can be avoided, and even fewer can be resolved, but all can be mitigated with the timely dissemination of martinis. And, if you have not begun to already, this is the time to start seriously cutting Uncle Harry’s cocktails. Experience teaches that if Uncle Harry reaches a certain level of intoxication he will forgo eating, and the path from here to true catastrophe is short, steep and well oiled.
Phase 3 – Recovery
One way to ensure holiday tensions boil over is through a mulish insistence that everyone come to and remain at the table. Do not do this. If dinner was not meant to be taken by some in the living room, there wouldn’t be so much football on television.
Let those that are finished, angry or without sentiment retreat to other regions of the house, and then talk about them over gimlets with the remaining elements of the assemblage, who are the people you truly like anyway.
Phase 4 – Obliviscence
In Thanksgiving’s wake are your shattered nerves and ruined home, but also your spouse, sister, parent and/or those couple friends you love without reservation. Still sitting around the table, steeped with dishes you will get to when you d’mn well feel like it, comes the part of the night, the holiday, your life, that holds true meaning. Sipping the White-Russian derivation your brother just invented, you reminisce about the last handful of Thanksgivings. Reflect on how your family’s political differences have not softened, or evolved in the slightest. Marvel at how much Uncle Harry can drink and still remain alive. Laugh yourself to tears that Aunt Marge let that freaking dog attack another child.
Toast these moments, all of them. Even the difficulties are an important part of what make up the holidays. The broken crockery, the inedible yams, your confounding family; you don’t need to admit it, even privately, but you would feel their absence.
Cheers. Happy Thanksgiving.