The Thanksgiving that almost sucked…but didn’t.

28 Nov

There is always one casualty on Thanksgiving besides the turkey.

I’ve been burning the candle at three ends these past few weeks.  Between working on my own business during the day, I also sandwich in preparing a presentation for a grad certificate course and a second job in the evenings.  Oh wait, and this is all on top of another huge stinking mound of metaphorical personal dog poo that I’ve been wading through for the past couple of months.

So, as you can gather, I’ve been a little stressed.  And I certainly wasn’t overly concerned about Thanksgiving.  Until the day Thanksgiving actually came.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that I usually don’t have to do too much for.  I don’t have to cook for a family.  I don’t get excited over the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I cringe at the thought of Black Friday/Small Business Saturday (WHO CAME UP WITH THIS NEW MARKETING PLOY??? DAMN YOU!)/Cyber Monday, and turkey just really isn’t my thing.  The only tradition that I’ve maintained over the  years was wearing a hideous fall-colored striped tunic sweater that is reminiscent of a turkey (I actually thought that sweater was cool when I bought it back in college.)  I mis-placed the sweater though.  And I’m pissed that this year, I broke the 13-year streak.

Mom and Dad are living la vida retired in Florida, and it didn’t make sense for them to come up to NJ since they are coming back to the Garden State in mid-December.  Most of my extended family is scattered across the country.  So this year, Thanksgiving was left to my little brother’s and my devices. And it was almost an epic FAIL.

ME: So, what do you have in mind for Thanksgiving?

BROTHER: Can’t you come up to the city?  There are better restaurants.

ME: No.  I don’t want to drive into the city on Thanksgiving,  I can’t bring the puppy on the train, and I’m emotionally exhausted.  What’s the big deal about coming to NJ?

BROTHER: I don’t feel like coming down to NJ. It’ll be such a hassle.

ME: You know, you don’t have to come.  If it’s a big deal, we’ll do it another time.  I got invited to Heather’s, you know.  And traveling to NJ by train is not so bad.  At least you won’t be getting groped by TSA screeners at the airports.

ME: No, no…I’ll come.  But I want sushi instead of turkey.

So began the search for Thanksgiving reservations.  After calling every Japanese restaurant in the area, I concluded that the American public just doesn’t include sushi on their Thanksgiving menu.  Every restaurant was going to be closed.  I suggested a couple non-sushi options to my brother, only to be given with an exasperated grunt or “no” each time.    And I couldn’t get a definitive time table on when my brother was coming in, so I wasn’t even sure I could stop by my other friends’ homes where I had been invited.

This was getting to be too much.

Finally, I made a 7:00 reservation for us at McLoone’s Pier House at Pier Village, Long Branch.  It’s a decent restaurant…a bit pricey for what it is, but you cannot beat the view of the ocean.  I figured it was a safe bet.

Thanksgiving Day came, and all was pretty copacetic.  I worked on my project.  I talked to my parents.  My brother finally told me which train he would be coming in on.  Then my phone rang. My mom’s best friend, Shirley, (who is like my second mother and the real mother of my high school ex-boyfriend, Michael) was up in New Jersey for the holiday from Miami.

SHIRLEY: Happy Thanksgiving!  What are you and your brother doing?

ME: Umm…we’re going out to eat.  He couldn’t firm up his schedule till today, so I couldn’t commit to anywhere.

SHIRLEY: Where is he now?

ME: He’s on the train and will be at the station in 15 minutes.

SHIRLEY: Well that’s just silly.  You two should come on up and join the family.  You are family, you know.

ME: Okaaay…won’t that be a little weird for everybody and Michael’s new wife? It’s been about 12 years since I last did Thanksgiving with you all.

SHIRLEY: Get your asses up here.

If there’s one person I can never say no to, it’s Shirley.  After hanging up, I hurried to get ready, scooped up my Yorkie (he was invited, too), and went to meet my brother at the station.  I thought he’d be excited to see Shirley, Michael (who is still very good friends with him to this day) and the family, and that dinner would be a lot more fun with them, rather than staring at each other at an a la carte restaurant.

ME: We’re going up to North Jersey to go to Michael’s family.

BROTHER: WHAT???  You mean I SUFFERED through all that traveling to come DOWN the shore, only to now be subject to over an hour of traffic to go back UP to North Jersey?

CARA: Sorry, plans changed.  I couldn’t say no.  Take the return train back from Millburn…it’s right near their house.  And besides, you love Michael and the family.

BROTHER: That was sooo inconsiderate of you.

That broke me.  I’d been keeping very calm about all the craziness that’s been going on in my life thus far.  I was even pretty patient with my brother up until that point.

That’s when I swung the car in a 180 and headed back towards the train station to drop my brother off.  After a lot of yelling and screaming from me (I think “selfish” and “one-way”  were used pretty interchangeably), I finally calmed down.

CARA: Do you think I REALLY wanted to go out to eat at a restaurant for Thanksgiving??? I tried so many times to tell you that I did have other places to go, and all you did was shoot every single one of those ideas down.

It was then that my brother realized that I was serious (probably because he also saw the veins popping out of my temples).  We both calmed down, and I turned the car around and proceeded north on the Garden State Parkway for the hour’s drive.

Once we got up to Shirley’s daughter’s  house, everything was fine.  The food was delicious, the turkey was perfect, and the company was even better.  I got to spend time with Michael’s new wife, Aubrey, who is really quite lovely.  Although I felt slightly awkward (sitting next to your ex-boyfriend while he’s sitting next to his new wife a little weird for you?), and a little homesick for my own family, it was a great holiday.  Thanks to Shirley, Michael, Aubrey and the gang for making us feel so welcome.  And despite the nasty fight my brother and I had (and we never fight…why do holidays bring the worst out in people???), he is is my only sibling and I still love him.  Till next year.

p.s. Apologies again to Aubrey, who is the owner of the lovely bruised shin pictured up top.  My dog got over-excited as we were leaving Shirley’s, and nipped her leg.  My puppy mom “tail” is between my legs…bad dog, Jake!

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