I recently attended a reenactment of the first Thanksgiving. It was a very enlightening experience. It gave me a much greater understanding of how some of the most enduring Thanksgiving traditions and rituals experienced every year in millions of Americans households began.
I learned a lot of surprising facts. It seems there were only five pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving dinner and it didn’t last very long. It was a potluck affair and each participate brought something to the table, all of which are still standard elements of Thanksgiving dinners today. There was James, the patriarch. James brought a turkey that he shot himself. There was Sarah, James wife, the matriarch. Sarah cooked the turkey and all the trimming and also brought to the table a pumpkin pie. There was James’ Uncle Seymour, who lived in the attic. He brought to the table a fifth of cheap whiskey. There was Sarah’s younger sister, Emily, who brought to the table her latest deadbeat boyfriend, Rico. And Rico brought to the table an attitude of smug superiority.
All started off well. Even though Emily brought Rico along unannounced, James, ever the peacemaker, welcomed him warmly.
“My home is your home,” said James. Sarah bit her tongue and said. “Well I only cooked enough for four because I had no idea... But that’s okay. I’ll just give up some of my portion.” Uncle Seymour slugged down shots of whiskey.
As James carved the turkey, he said, “So, Rico, what kind of work do you do?”
Rico said, “I used to sell horseshoes, but I’m on sabbatical.”
James replied, “That’s so interesting.” And then James said, “Emily, would you like this juicy drumstick? I know it’s your favorite part of the bird.”
Emily replied, “No thank you. Rico and I are vegans.
Sarah spewed her apple cider. “What!”
Uncle Seymour took a slug and said, “What the hell’s wrong with meat?”
“Carnivores are base creatures,” Rico said. “They thirst for blood.”
“That’s right,” chimed Emily. “We want our spirits to be unencumbered.”
Sarah retorted, “Fine! Who cares about my feelings! I slaved all day cooking this turkey and none of you lifted a finger to help!”
“Oh boy,” Emily said. “Here we go with the martyr routine again. She says she doesn’t need help and then she complains because no one helps.”
“That’s sooooo bourgeois,” Rico scoffed.
Uncle Seymour slugged a shot and said, “If you ask me, I think you’ve all got a screw loose!”
Sarah said, “Oh my God! I’m getting one of my migraines!
To which Emily shot back. “You’ve never been supportive of me! You always want to sabotage my happiness!”
James stood and declared, “How about a nice game of Scrabble?
“Oh give it up, James,” said Emily. “You’re such a milquetoast.
“Hey,” spat Uncle Seymour. “You can’t call my idiot nephew names!”
“Oh my God,” Sarah moaned. “I‘m blind! My migraine is so intense I can’t see!”
“So now you’re blind and it’s all my fault!” Emily cried. “Everything is my fault, isn’t it?”
Emily tipped over the dinner table and stormed off.
And centuries later, here we are.