Chicago dad improves Thanksgiving

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 4-year-old daughter, who just can’t get into the Thanksgiving spirit.

Full disclosure: I love Thanksgiving. It might be my favorite holiday. Why? Because I don’t have to buy gifts. Because it isn’t snowing yet. Because there are no Wings songs about Thanksgiving with heavy synth. And because I get to eat and eat and eat and eat and eat … and eat.

I’ll admit though, it’s the nerdiest of major holidays. Viva cried when I took the Halloween decorations downstairs and told her the next stop wasn’t Christmas, but Thanksgiving. I tried to make it up to her by Googling “Thanksgiving Decorations,” which lead me to filling all our vases with gourds and dried leaves. Viva was not impressed – glass cylinders of gourds everywhere does not make up for leaving behind the day in which you get to dress like Cinderella and all the neighbors give you fun-size Snickers while robot ghosts fly around in everyone’s yards. Thanksgiving has no gifts, no candy, no mascots, no costumes, no explosions, no scavenger hunts. It’s just family, food and earth tones. Kids hate it. Teens hate it. Young couples hate it. Whomever has to do the cooking hates it. Whomever has to do the dishes really hates it. But I am none of those things – I am a stressed out, grumpy, aging dad who just wants to eat sausage stuffing, drink wine and fall asleep.

But how can we improve the day for everyone else? How can we make it festive for those looking forward to something besides gravy and the grave? Let’s look at why Thanksgiving struggles, and how we can do something about it.

First, there are the parades. Parades are dumb. Sorry, traditionalists, but every single thing my phone does is cooler than the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Marching bands in spats (!) playing “Watch Me” on trumpets and snare drums, Georgia Engel and the Care Bears dancing on a flowery flatbed, tween Disney “stars” you’ve never heard of singing songs that were probably written that morning by a computer, and the Rockettes, ugh, the Rockettes. I’m sure kicking drove the fellas wild in the ‘30s, but now it’s just a line of vacant stares and pantyhose. And that’s the New York parade – let’s not even start with the Chicago parade in front of Macy Fields. Last year that parade ended with Janet Davies and Santa boogying to “What Does the Fox Say?”

Oh, and you have to drive to your parents during the parade, so your kid can’t watch it, anyhow.

So, how to make it cooler? Show cooler movies on Thanksgiving, after the food is eaten and the football bets settled up. Maybe show “Star Wars.” Everybody likes “Star Wars.” Everybody. I call for an annual screening of “The Empire Strikes Back” every year on Turkey Day. I think it’s autumn in the Dagobah scene.

Next, there’s the whole Pilgrim thing. It’s super hard to get excited about a holiday based around Puritans with a shaky grasp of agriculture. They got driven out of Europe for wearing buckles on their shoes, belts and hats (that’s too many buckles, people), and then they got to North America and did a spectacular job of dropping dead in droves until they were bailed out by the Wampanoags, who within 20 years were all but destroyed by European plagues and treachery. Way to bite the hand that catches fish, plants corn and brings you free deer meat, Pilgrims. Buckle-clad religious fanatics getting venison welfare – that’s what we’re supposed to get fired up about.

If we’re going to get young adults into Thanksgiving the way they’ve gone nuts over Halloween, we’ve got to sex it up! We’re going to have to stop telling the story of Squanto and Governor Bradford, and start drunkenly cosplaying as “The Courtship of Miles Standish” and “The Scarlet Letter.”  You know, naughty Pilgrims. Priscilla Mullins was in a love triangle – just like the glowering chick in Twilight, and Hester Prynn was the original bad girl. Oh, and how about Abigail Williams in “The Crucible”? She was kind of a Pilgrim, and she was alright (until she had all those people hanged and crushed by stones for witchcraft). Once “Leg Avenue” starts selling sexy Pilgrim outfits in pop-up Thanksgiving Adventure stores, the twenty-somethings are going to own Turkey Day.

We’re going to have to fix the decorations. Sure, I find a cornucopia (shaped like a horn, the ultimate symbol of licentiousness) bursting with the ripe round products of the harvest to be almost shocking in its praise of fecundity – but one look at wicker and most people put their finger and thumb in the shape of an “L” on their forehead. You know what is hanging from the ceiling of Target right now where they tend to hang cartoon bats or TIE fighters? A big cardboard picture of a skillet full of stuffing. It got my heart beating fast, but Viva was clearly disappointed. We need Thanksgiving trees covered in blown-glass sweet potatoes, haunted yard cemeteries full of angry dead Plymouth residents and turkey pinatas filled with cranberry dressing. (Lay down a dropcloth first.)

And, finally, the menu needs a tweak. Mashed potatoes and creamed corn are fine for people who probably own an NPR tote bag, but even pumpkin pie looks to my daughter like vegetable puree in a pie crust – a cruel perversion of the notion of dessert. We’re going to need Reese’s to start making peanut butter-filled chocolate turkeys, and soon!

Again, I love Thanksgiving. There’s no pressure except for the pressure on the person who has to try and keep a 45 pound turkey moist in the oven. (I guess they can try that hillbilly deep frying method, which usually ends with everyone on fire.) It just isn’t very thrilling. With a few simple tweaks, I think it could compete with Halloween and Christmas. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a “Sexy John Smith” costume to purchase.

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