On Thanksgiving there has never been the rush of relatives through my door, the clanking and clinking of pots and pans or the warm smells of a fresh turkey and stuffing. At school, I have often heard my friends rave about the feast their families make for this special occasion: the sweet cranberry sauce, the creamy mashed potatoes, the delicious apple pies and the like.
However, to me Thanksgiving has always been marked by a plethora of ads broadcasting this holiday between Halloween and Christmas. As soon as Halloween passes, ghost and ghouls are kicked off to the sales bins and Thanksgiving decorations of turkeys in pilgrim hats fill the shelves.
On TV, Macy’s and Old Navy ads for Black Friday overtake commercials, with models in fur coats and autumn colors prancing along the screen. Advertisements fill the mailbox, announcing that fancy silverware for this special occasion is 30 percent off and if you go to Albertson’s a turkey costs half the price compared to other grocery stores.
And the hordes of relatives! All of my childhood I have listened to my classmates boast on how their aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and second-cousins-twice-removed all gather under one roof and share the joy of each other’s company. Admittedly, I’m jealous.
My parents have been known to be extreme workaholics, both of them run their own medical clinics and usually don’t arrive at home until midnight or the next day. As a result, family-sit down dinners are a rarity at our house. My four younger brothers and I either starve for the cold Chinese take-out our parents bring home, or have already lost our appetites by then.
Throughout our childhood our parents have come in and out of the house like strangers who occasionally stop by to ask about our day. Every time we complain about their absence they tell us that we will understand when we are older. Thus, our birthdays, Christmas, Easter and other holidays usually pass without much excitement.
Yet despite this, my mom and dad always make sure to come home for Thanksgiving. A few hours before our parents come home, my brothers and I feverishly clean the house – all of us excited for the arrival of our parents.
We vacuum the carpet, sweep away cobwebs, put out a new tablecloth, set up the table with our favorite silverware of white plates and colorful plastic cups, and most importantly, place the turkey in the oven. One time, we cut out hand-drawn turkeys and pasted them to the window for them to see when they pulled up to the driveway.
Then around 9 p.m. my parents get home. Both are frazzled and tired from work; my dad carrying soda in a plastic bag and my mom holding a small pumpkin pie. But as soon as they walk through the door and smell the turkey waiting in the oven, see the table neatly set and our faces peeking out anxiously from the living room, their faces light up. My siblings and I exchange elated looks and we all gather around the table. This is the moment my brothers and I have been waiting for.
For us, Thanksgiving has never been about the extravagance of the feast or the sales that take place the next day. As we sit around the table I smile as I watch my brothers and parents talk about their day and laugh over cold pie and burnt turkey. Our mother repeats stories from her teenage years and although we have these stories memorized, we lean in eagerly to catch every word. While our father cuts the turkey and serves us slices of pie, listening along to our mother’s voice or telling us tales from his past baseball career. For most people, this happens all the time, but for my family and I Thanksgiving is the one day that brings us all together.