How I Spent My Thanksgiving Holiday

Ten pies brought to Anne's family's Thanksgiving this year.

Pies nearly outnumbered people at Anne’s Thanksgiving this year.

It’s the holiday season! Yes, again! The past two weeks have been far from boring as Thanksgiving came and went, events kept sliding into our schedules, opportunities for both travel and sedentary diversions fought to take up our head space, and Christmas kept trying to assert its dominance too soon. Some of the busyness lent itself to pictures.

Some of the things I did:

* Thanksgiving at home! My side of the family has more or less forfeited turkey-time now that most of us live far from each other — states away, in some cases. In lieu of that, on Thanksgiving Day itself the last few years we’ve been inviting my mom over so she doesn’t have to spend the day alone. Anne makes a feast for the four of us that would feed a full-size gathering. I watch a movie with Mom, I spend a few seconds reminiscing in my head about how I used to spend Thanksgiving night studying the Black Friday ads in the newspaper, and then we dine on the leftovers for days. That’s baseline Thanksgiving of late. I finished the sweet potatoes Wednesday morning for breakfast, and thus were our leftover duration standards met.

Our Thanksgiving 2022 dinner with boneless Butterball turkey, sweet potatoes, rolls, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, and so on.

Not pictured: the second of two boneless Butterball turkeys Anne made, our household’s event-dinner poultry of choice.

* Thanksgiving way from home! After Anne’s grandma passed away in 2018, her side’s turkey time went on hiatus as everyone suddenly began focusing on gatherings in their other circles that they’d been missing over the years, or they indulged other non-holiday activities while Mamaw was no longer around to guilt-trip them sweetly into coming over. This year two key relatives moved up to Indiana after a decades-long stay in Kentucky and offered to host a Thanksgiving comeback special. One catch: it was Friday at noon, which meant no one could spend the entire day shopping. As most folks rely more heavily on online shopping nowadays and are okay with driving local proprietors into the poorhouse, nobody complained about schedule conflict.

As seen in our lead photo, we had too much pie, a phrase that sounds like heresy, and yet there it is. I limited myself to sliver-sized slices from three different pies and pretended that was a mature choice. Even before the Friday shindig, we’d already had pumpkin and pecan pies at home…and a chocolate pudding pie the weekend before, as a pre-Thanksgiving teaser dessert, kind of like how some families let kids open one gift on Christmas Eve. All told, the pie collection featured were pistachio, squash, pumpkin, Oreo, different Oreo, chocolate non-Oreo, Tollhouse Cookie, custard, cherry, and my favorite, pecan chocolate chip. For anyone demanding a change of pace, there was a store-bought pumpkin roll, and the last faction to arrive brought a cake I never got to see.

A few of our preferred groceries have become scarce or nonexistent during the temporary recessional inflationary supply-chain crisis-esque inconvenience meltdown trifle catastrophe that’s been status quo for like two years straight, but at long as we can find pie, or pie can find us, we believe America will stand tall and brave any other challenges ahead. Hopefully.

Our relatives were pretty happy to see each other again. Right on time, my social awkwardness kicked in as all the most interesting and ebullient talkers decided the best place for mingling in varying groupings would be in the room where I wasn’t. Three of us guys who weren’t much on initiating chitchat (all of us being plus-ones to blood kin) were left in the living room with the TV off and no one volunteering to do anything about it. Instead we agreed to find separate directions in which to stare off into space, avoid eye contact, and fall back on the hoary excuse that we were “digesting”. I kept my phone pocketed for as long as I could, but eventually caved. I got in a good forty minutes’ silent, boring doomscrolling before anyone checked on me.

In a few ways I’d missed that. Sort of.

A big black and white doggie sitting by my feet, staring politely.

Their doggie kept me company through some of that. I didn’t get her name.

* Black Friday shopping anyway! On my old blog I used to have an annual tradition of keeping a “Black Friday War Journal”, a complete rundown of times, stops, and purchasing results written throughout the hours I’d spend on Black Friday out there in the predawn pandemonium and the maddened crowds, all written in the terse, paranoiac style of Frank Castle. I walked away from all that as Black Friday metamorphosed into a very different thing over time, but I do miss keeping those War Journals.

Despite our noon engagement, I got out for a few hours in the morning beforehand to grab a couple of minor sales. I saw no customer feeding frenzies, no fistfights, and no police springing into action to quell riots. At 8 a.m. Barnes & Noble was teeming with dozens of teens. At 9 a.m. Target was already sold out of a popular Nintendo Switch game in their ad (or they hadn’t bothered to order any — I checked two different Targets, mind you). By 10 a.m. Best Buy had almost no line at the registers. I was home by 11.

* Family Game Night! That was Saturday evening. I’ve posted in the past about some of our experiences with new board games. The ones that catch our attention are too expensive for us to make this a regular habit, although after seeing how many Likes my Instagram posts get whenever I share them, it’s really tempting to reinvent myself as a Board Game Guy. Our latest acquisition is Terraforming Mars, a 2016 release in which each player is a future corporation doing its part to turn Mars into Earth Junior, ostensibly in the name of solving a humanitarian crisis and advancing humankind’s frontiers and scientific achievements, but also you’re competing to see who can take the most credit. Corporations gonna corporate.

The setup and teaching phases took us far too long, but eventually we picked up speed as we got used to the rules, slowly realized which of the zillions of scores ‘n’ stats mattered most, and figured out how to sabotage other’s plans in the grand corporate tradition. My son won this initial skirmish, but I expect different results next time. Hopefully.

Terraforming Mars board game, which comes with literally a few hundred components, including over 200 cards.

Anne and I hope to start on season 3 of Apple+’s For All Mankind in the next few weeks or so. This game feels like an apropos prologue.

* Solo Game Nights! Or, “how I spend every night after 9:00 when I’m not sleepy and not writing, which is most of them lately.” Fallout 3 has been keeping me company. I’ll write more about it in the next annual “Old Guy with a PS3” entry, but for now let me say that, considering the number of years I spent playing nothing but Skyrim, luring me into a game whose mechanics and sandbox sprawl are virtually identical to Skyrim‘s was like handing a Jack Daniels gift-box to your alcoholic dad. Thankfully there aren’t nearly as many locations, and the Capital Wasteland is far smaller than Tamriel, so maybe I’ll “finish” it sometime early in 2023. The less I write here, the more time I have for covering ground there.

"Radiation Warning" sign in Fallout 3.

The fence around Fallout 3‘s crater where the White House used to be. Lately this image could also double as Twitter’s home page.

* Xfinity Watchathon! A few times per year, our old-fashioned cable TV provider will treat their customers to several free days of premium services they refuse to subscribe to normally. That’s when I catch up on my HBO stories. My last Watchathon was devoted entirely to season 3 of Barry, which remains amazing; this time in between all the other activities I just wrote about above, I managed to fit in ten episodes of Succession (I ended with season 3’s riotous shareholders’ meeting, and hope the next episode doesn’t begin with poor Frank still trapped at the podium vamping for time), the HBO Max original film See How They Run (a frivolous whodunit with some historical facts blended in, and I cheered when I recognized Lucian Msamati from the awesome Gangs of London as Agatha Christie’s husband), and, for Mom’s Thanksgiving afternoon entertainment as a lifelong fan of disaster films, Roland Emmerich’s Moonfall, the worst 2022 film I’ve seen so far. Thanks, Comcast, mostly!

* A funeral. Anne’s great-uncle, her Mamaw’s youngest brother, passed away Thanksgiving Eve after three years of compounding illnesses and conditions. He was an Air Force veteran who went on to work for the FAA, he served on the local township school board for sixteen years, he spent over five decades in the Lions Club and assorted charity works, he used to take the family out for Christmas dinner every year at Gray Bros. Cafeteria in Mooresville, and he was always kind to me and my son whenever he saw us, same as he was to pretty much anyone who intersected with his path. His numerous accomplishments added up to the sort of obituary that makes you hope your own obit won’t end up a two-line slug that just says, “Mostly harmless.”

* Things that will get their own MCC entries in the week ahead! Stick with us as I’m on staycation all next week and should have plenty of time to write about:

  • The Menu, a wicked but sadly overlooked satire of wealthy foodies and the restaurateurs who take too much pride in serving them.
  • A field trip to see a collection of special Christmas trees in a local museum.
  • Our next convention! I spent Monday night prepping for this coming weekend’s big soiree, which will take us to a city in another state that we’ve already visited twice this year, whose convention center we walked around once but have never been inside before.

…and maybe even more, more, more, right here on MCC! If you don’t read about all these by next Wednesday, please tell Anne to go drag me out of Fallout 3 kicking and screaming.

How We Spent Our Thanksgiving 2020 Pandemic Weekend

Large serving plate of thick-sliced roasted turkey.

Turkey! Because not all traditions needed to be suspended this year.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: 2020 is still running rampant and no one’s offered us free COVID-19 vaccines yet.

Despite the best attempts of many to pretend everything was fine and normal and safe, Anne and I refused to let our guard down and declined an offer to have a large dinner with far too many relatives. That doesn’t mean we spent all four days sulking and doom-scrolling in our PJs. Just a little of it.

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Thanksgiving Between the Christmas Cues

Thursday paper!

Another ancient tradition falling by the wayside in today’s culture: newspapers thrown on driveways.

Before our first glimpse of Thanksgiving turkey or family, my long holiday weekend kicked off after work Wednesday when I arrived home around 4 p.m. to find Thursday morning’s newspaper already delivered, articles and all. The largest physical edition every year, Thanksgiving Day papers are coveted for their Black Friday ads, more or less the official Christmas season launch. Shoppers can’t wait to get started on it — hence more and more stores reopening on Thanksgiving itself, hours ahead of the Black Friday starter pistols. It stands to reason our carrier couldn’t wait to get past it, to unload this newsprint behemoth as soon as possible.

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The Very First Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Charlie Brown Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is nigh again! Time for gratitude toward those wonderful people who endure us, another round of overeating, more complaints about What the First Thanksgiving Was Really Like in Case You Haven’t Heard That One Before, and both budgets and self-control thrown out the window for the sake of the longest Friday of the year.

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The Joy of Recurring Gratitude

Thanksgiving Card!

Art by an anonymous Hallmark staffer, probably.

Every year I receive exactly one (1) greeting card wishing me Happy Thanksgiving. A fellow who works for my company in another state used to need my help on assorted requests several years ago, and I’ve been on his Thanksgiving card list ever since. Nowadays he needs my help only sporadically — if we have contact more than twice a year, I’d be surprised. But he keeps me in his thoughts. Above and beyond the pre-printed, mass-produced, well-wishing boilerplate, he writes a note of personalized appreciation inside each card, much more than just “Hi!” and a name. It’s always wordier than 90% of the Christmas cards we receive, the closest I ever get to an old-fashioned letter. It’s a tradition that used to strike me as odd, but as I’ve grown older I’ve come to appreciate it as a kind touch that adds a modest, welcome flourish to the proceedings. Also, this year’s model looks niftier than ever.

To MCC’s longtime readers: thank you for being you. Thanks for stopping by. Thanks very much for the comments and the encouraging feedback, whether one-click or multi-paragraph. Thanks for your acts, great or small, that go a long way toward making this peculiar labor of love an enriching experience. Special thanks to anyone who’s ever recommended or just mentioned the site to any other human. Thanks to all of you for being there at every level.

Our family wishes a happy, blessed Thanksgiving to you frequent visitors and newcomers alike. May your holiday and your weekend be filled to overflowing with a continual parade of kindnesses, from the largest favors to the smallest gestures. And may you find yourselves pleasantly surprised at which moments come to mean the most.

Indiana Couple Negotiates Tentative Agreement for Turkey After Weeks of Diplomatic Stalemate

Turkey and Pie!

Turkey and pie. Let’s face it: everything else at the Thanksgiving table is disposable.

All this week, every time someone friendly asked me, “Got plans for Thanksgiving?” I’ve had to shrug and say, “Wish I knew.” As of this morning, six days before the big event, neither my family nor Anne’s had communicated a single word to either of us one way or another. No Facebook “event” set up. No direct messages. No general statuses. No phone calls. No cards. No sign of any volunteers. No visible evidence that any of them still considered Thanksgiving a worthy celebration and not a fabricated Hallmark card-selling stunt.

Hoping for the best but planning for the worst, we decided tonight to buy our own fourteen-pound backup turkey. Just in case. Because sometimes you gotta take holiday matters into your own hands.

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Happy Thanksgiving from MCC!

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving!

Every chef’s least favorite part of the Thanksgiving experience: the customer complaints.

In the spirit of the American holiday, the management here at Midlife Crisis Crossover would like to wish a Happy Thanksgiving upon you ‘n’ yours, and to express our sincerest gratitude to You, the Viewers at Home. Thanks for stopping by. Thanks very much for your generous encouragement signals in all their varied forms. Danke schön for making this long-term hobby experiment enjoyable even when it’s not easy. And enjoy a Special Thanks during the end credits for just being You.

Whether you’re visiting loved ones, liked ones, or other ones, or opting out of the visiting experience altogether, may your celebratory meals be enjoyed in peace, love, harmony, and kindness in both spirit and tongue. May your gathering remain festive and filled with fellowship, and may it not turn into a flame war so atrocious that it earnsits own hashtag.

And don’t forget to thank the hard-working chef(s) and collaborators who made your Turkey Day feeding possible. Even if the turkey is a little dry, or the dinner rolls are a little overcooked, or they forgot to salt anything, or they think jellybeans are an acceptable substitute for stuffing, or they’re serving their homemade off-putting cranberry-rhubarb-coconut cobbler again, their generosity, diligence, and talents nonetheless deserve a round of recognition. After you’ve complimented them or handed them awards, then you can go fall asleep in their favorite recliner or on their living room rug. Cheers!

A Very Special MCC Thanksgiving Haiku-tacular

Thanksgiving dinner leftovers

Thanksgiving success / is measured by the lack of / pretty leftovers. [Source: file photo from / our two thousand eleven / meal to end all meals.]

Just because I can
Write a Thanksgiving haiku
Clearly means I should

Does it get worse? Let’s find out!

2013 Road Trip Photos #19: Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

After spending the first half of Day Five on the Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruise, we headed back west toward our Boston hotel, but with one more stopover in mind along the way: the town of Plymouth, location of the celebrated area where those stalwart adventurers known in American textbooks as the Pilgrims settled in 1620, established a new life apart from the Church of England, and invented the Thanksgiving holiday that large American department stores have all but abolished.

Plymouth’s star attraction is, of course, one of the most famous pebbles in America: Plymouth Rock. Legend and history share billing in its tale, but contemporary sources corroborated the age of the designated Rock, which dates back to at least the 1770s, if not quite to the original walking path of the Pilgrims themselves. Either way it’s certifiably centuries older than we are.

Plymouth Rock, Plymouth, Massachusetts

Continue here for more of our Thanksgiving in July!

Your New Black Thursday Strategy Guide

Christmas toys

If you want to be first in line to buy Christmas presents for your loved ones for nickels on the dollar, even if they’re worth pennies at best, you need to be prepared.

Last year on this site I wrote at length about my frustration with the ongoing dilution of my personal Black Friday tradition. What was once a fun, singular day of people-watching and movie-hoarding has lost its charm for me as retail stores continue to reopen earlier and earlier that weekend to accommodate America’s lust to begin Christmas shopping as soon as possible, even if their Thanksgiving turkey dinner is still digesting and most of their relatives remain unvisited.

Last year’s new fad was for stores to reopen at midnight Friday instead of waiting until Friday’s been up and running for a few hours first. This year, many stores think midnight is too long to wait for shoppers to come fork over all the monies, and are reopening Thanksgiving evening, around the same time that some families are accustomed to holding their Thanksgiving. On the bolder end of the spectrum, Old Navy plans to open on Thanksgiving at 9 a.m. I’m sure they’re not alone in rejecting the holiday’s existence altogether.

Clearly if one wants to win at two-day Black Friday, the old single-day Black Friday playbook needs to be shredded and competitive shoppers need to rethink their strategies. Because, like Black Friday, this new tradition of Black Thursday isn’t just about Christmas survival. It’s about Christmas victory.

How to win Christmas and ignore people!

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