The Four Passover Questions – Thanksgiving 2020 Edition

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency requested submissions that reflected how surreal Thanksgiving will be this year. I submit, but sadly my piece was not accepted. I worked hard on it though, and it’s timely, so I figured I’d stick it up on Afthead for grins. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Hold on sweetie.  Let mommy light the candles.  Go wash your hands, then you can ask the questions. 

How is this Thanksgiving different from all other Thanksgivings?

I’m glad you asked, young child. This Thanksgiving is different from all other Thanksgivings in every way imaginable.  Our health is being threatened by a virus; our democracy is being endangered by the current fascist-curious administration; racists, bigots and misogynists are swarming out of their bunkers; murder hornets are apparently a thing; and Alex Trebek died (he’s Canadian, but we still were thankful for him and mourn his loss). 

Now, you may ask your four questions as this question was a meta-question and does not count against your quota. 

Mommy drinks a glass of wine.

On all other Thanksgivings we eat turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes.  Why on this Thanksgiving do we eat only mashed potatoes?

I’m glad you asked, young child.  On all other Thanksgivings, the meal is a communal endeavor.  Family members brings their individual talents to each dish’s preparation.  Mommy is excellent at making mashed potatoes, so I make mashed potatoes every year.  Grandma makes the stuffing and Grandpa sticks that sausage-y goodness into the body cavity of a turkey and bakes it up golden using his magical paper bag trick. 

Did you notice Daddy wasn’t mentioned in the “meal preparation talent” list?  Yet he thought he could handle the Thanksgiving turkey.  But, since he neglected to take the plastic bag of giblets out of the turkey before putting it in the oven, now both the turkey and Mommy’s pathetic attempt at stuffing are ruined.  (No, we didn’t notice the bag when we were stuffing the turkey, because putting your hand in there is gross.  We didn’t dig around exploring.)  What are giblets you ask?   Turkey guts.  No, that question doesn’t count against your four-question limit.  

Mommy drinks a glass of wine

On all other Thanksgivings we eat sweet potatoes with marshmallows.  Why on this Thanksgiving are there only marshmallows? 

I’m glad you asked, young child.  This Thanksgiving, we do not eat sweet potatoes, because they remind us of the unnatural hue of our president.  We refuse to even hint at accepting his totalitarian regime by enjoying the sweetness of the orange potato. 

We eat marshmallows because of our recent realization that our family enjoys an unhealthy amount of white privilege.  The eating of the marshmallows symbolizes the destruction of all squishy white racists – McConnell, Pence, and Graham to name a few.  The sickness we feel after eating an entire bag of marshmallows reminds us that too much whiteness is largely responsible for the mess our country is in right now.    

Mommy drinks a glass of wine.

On all other Thanksgivings, we don’t have any dips.  Why do we have two dips this Thanksgiving?

Did you have to ask, young child?  Can you not smell the burnt plastic?  Mommy and daddy are not adult enough to pull off a real Thanksgiving.  While essential grocery store workers are at the store today, they are getting COVID at a frightening rate, so we don’t want to risk their lives by rushing out and buying another dinner that we would probably ruin anyway.  We made do.  We are like the fucking pilgrims, with no native Americans to bail us out. 

Yes, fucking is a bad word.  I’m sorry.  But you LOVE French onion and fake cheese dip.  Why are you complaining? 

Yes, firemen are also essential workers, which is why we didn’t let daddy fry the turkey.  No, hon, it wouldn’t have worked better that way, you just would have fried the damn bag of giblets. 

Mommy drinks a glass of wine

On all other Thanksgivings we sit upright at the dining room table, surrounded by friends and family.  Why on this night are we alone reclining in front of the television?

I’m SO glad you asked, young child.  This year it’s just our little family for Thanksgiving, because infecting grandma and grandpa and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends with COVID might ruin our chance to spend future holidays together.  Reclining alone in our living room shows our despondence at society’s collective failure to protect each other, and listening to our friends Troy Aikman and Joe Buck commentate the Cowboys game is the closest thing to adult conversation we….

What?  Ohmygosh, yes.  We want COVID to pass over our family, just like we learned at Zoom Passover this spring.  Wow, you were really paying attention.  No, sweetie, you don’t need to paint blood on our door.  This is a different kind of plague.  No, I don’t think there will be any frogs.  I’m sorry I know you love frogs.  Shhhh.  I’m sad and scared too.  Here, eat another marshmallow.  

Mommy pours a fifth glass of wine.

Is this cup of wine for Elijah?  I don’t think Elijah comes to Thanksgiving.  Well sure, you can open the door, just in case.  Guess what? Question quota is full.  Mommy is all done.  Let’s have some pie.  Yes, I’m sure Elijah likes pie. 

Photo by Rebecca Freeman on Unsplash

It’s Okay

img_8386I read because I love stories.  I love being transported into another person’s world and perspective.  Occasionally, reading helps me understand life.  Last week I was finding respite from the chaos of real life, reading Sarah Gailey’s new book When We Were Magic, when I came upon this gem:

Paulie pats my thigh.  “It’s okay,” she says, “It’s okay to be upset at upsetting things.”  I’m struck by the sentiment.  “It’s okay to be upset at upsetting things,” I repeat, and Paulie taps her fingers on my knee in a pattern I don’t follow.

Anyone else had a rough couple of weeks?  Two weeks ago I was diagnosed with arthritis in my left knee.  The constant ache and sharp pain waking me up in the middle of the night had a name.  My daughter didn’t make her middle school soccer team.  Last year when I asked her why she played soccer she told me, “Because I want to play in middle school.”  One dream crushed, she rebounded to play brilliantly in a club tournament , but lost in the finals.  This all happened before I knew it was okay to be upset at upsetting things.

Last week was finals week.  This was the first quarter in my almost three years of graduate school that I took two classes.  For ten weeks I’ve been a demon.  The pull of work, parenting, sports, pets, life, plus two graduate school classes – Geodatabases and Advanced Geospatial Statistics – was a grind.  I was awful to my friends.  I was negligent to my family.  I was a drag on my projects at work.  Everyone had been warned that this was going to be unpleasant, and it was on everyone.

If I finished successfully, I was going to celebrate.  With those two classes finished I would only have two more classes left before my degree was complete.  I was going to go have a drink with friends.  I was going to apologize to my family, maybe go get ice cream.  There were going to be donuts at work.  Pizza too.

I finished Saturday, March 14th.  No one went to the office on the 16th.  There was no one to celebrate with.  Getting ice cream with my family seemed irresponsible.  COVID-19 hit and social distancing had started and my ten horrible weeks was transitioning into a different unknown horrible with an unknown timeline, but by then I’d finished Gailey’s book.  I was angry and annoyed and frustrated, but I knew it’s okay to be upset at upsetting things.

Now, I sit in the same horrible chair I sat in for 10 weeks doing homework and I wish things were different.  I wish my knee didn’t hurt.  I wish my daughter had known the joy of making the team or winning the tournament – especially now when soccer looks unlikely until fall.  (Please, let there be soccer in the fall.)  I don’t wish I would have been kinder during my 10 weeks of school, because I just don’t work that way, but I do wish I could have had a moment of joy.  Sharing with others the accomplishment that I’d done something really hard really well:  99.4% average between both classes – a not humble brag.

I wish my kid could see her friends.  I wish I could see my friends.  I wish my dad took the health risk of this disease more seriously.  I hate that I have to keep sitting day in and day out in my homework chair, but now it’s my office chair, my school chair, my writing chair.  It’s the only chair my butt is going to reside in for weeks? Months?  But I am so grateful for the escape of books.  That I can go to world where life is different.  Where I can find wisdom from a bunch of magical teenagers:

“It’s okay,” she says, “It’s okay to be upset at upsetting things.”