Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays are a funny excuse for being overindulgent, going out and spending exorbitantly. We seem to watch a tumbler full of television specials that warm the heart to the true meaning of Thanksgiving /The Holidays. Families sit around tables without breaking the fifth wall, friends tell each other how lucky they are to know one another, and typically the show ends in some kind of kindhearted miracle that often involves a homeless individual. I hate to sound bitter, scroogy or just plain old but the picture I see some Thanksgivings looks nothing like goodwill or warm snuggies.
Running around the freezer cold grocery, dodging stiff metal carts and soft brambles of people, I arrived at the turkeys. The birds wearing their plastic best were stacked asunder in the freezer section with sale priced stickers all over them. The fresh, proud birds were lined in an orderly fashion with a much fancier sticker price. I contemplated the morals of each decision. Of course the fresh turkey represents health and cuisine. It is the type of poultry that might incite good heartedness with its tender flesh. I thought about my lack of employment and the flailing economy and head hung, I bent to lift a solidly frozen turkey. The remainder of the trip was one Ground Hog’s day like experience after another for each thanksgiving essential thereafter….dyed yellow cheddar or imported Swiss gruyere, European wilty salad in a bag, or a variety of fresh leaves in every shade of green, the eighty-nine cent can of cranberries or make the sauce from scratch with fresh tart berries. Processed, cheap and fast won each round.
The grocery battle left me with one third of my energy bars so I raced home thinking only of a comfortable chair for a few moments before Thanksgiving prep had to begin. As I sat in my comfy leather chair, I sighed with the first world problem of stress at having to cook an excessive amount of food, most of which will enter that trash can untouched/scooted around or in the freezer until next Thanksgiving when I throw it out disgusted. I could not will myself out of the chair to cook this sad version of a Food Network style thanksgiving.
I motivated myself into the kitchen and began cutting and thawing over a glass of cabernet. The phone rang. My hands covered in turkey goup, I looked at the phone and shook my head. Of course. The phone continued to ring at me, so I gave up and wiped my hands on my jeans.
“Hey! Happy Thanksgiving! What are you up to?”
“Hey, Happy Thanksgiving too. I’m up to cooking this stupid turkey and trying to get stuff ready. What are you up to?”
“Nothing much. I just wanted to check in to see if you were still on for holiday dinner with the girls at (insert fancy, too expensive restaurant here) and then the party at Sara’s house after?”
There was a painful pause on my side as I ran through a complex obstacle course of how to answer this question. They all knew I have not been able to find a job, not even a part-time gig and thus have been without income for months now. I don’t want to sound like an economic cry baby. I can’t go because I am living off the last leg of what was already a laughable savings account, mostly due to luck and stinginess rather than a great salary. I don’t want to deal with keeping up a lie, like “I have plans” or “I don’t like nice restaurants.” I don’t believe they planned it this way on purpose. I don’t want them to feel guilty for having money.
“Oh, yeah…sorry I didn’t get a chance to respond to the email chain. I’ll probably skip the restaurant and meet up with you guys later at the party.”
“Yeah, I figured with your situation and all. Ok, cool! Happy Thanksgiving, I’ll talk to you later.”
I imagined smashing her XOXO smiley face exclamation marks. It was the “I figured” that threw me.
I held the phone listening to the soft blare of the dial tone. My eyes floated up to the table filled with uncooked, unwanted gluttony of animal flesh, chemicals and fat. I looked down, blinking back ridiculous tears.
I closed my eyes slowly inhaling anything good in the air. Sighing, I forced a smile to force the good spirit and find the strength to participate in this holiday season of economic hardship.