Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. As a Jewish girl with only Christian friends, I felt incredibly isolated during the holidays. I spent Christmases on the couch watching Billy Crystal movies and Easters eating leftover matzos by myself as my friends ran around their backyards in pastel dresses searching for candy hidden in the grass. I never felt left out on Thanksgiving, though. I spent my day off school loitering in the kitchen while my parents put together a feast, waiting at their heels with the family dog for scraps or attention.
I was just like every other kid on Thanksgiving. I was forced to watch the parade on TV, followed by golf or football or whatever else the men in my family chose. I got to eat so much cheese and crackers that I was beyond stuffed before dinner started. I got to moan on the couch in a blissful gluttonous haze and I got to recap the whole event the next day with all of my friends on AIM. For all these things and more, it is decidedly my number one holiday.
While I embrace Thanksgiving for its sameness, for its open arms and unwavering traditions, I do recognize the way in which the Thanksgiving experience changes as you grow up. With each aging year, that last Thursday of November becomes a slightly different holiday. Here are four differences between celebrating Thanksgiving as a child and as an adult.
When you're a little kid, Thanksgiving morning is very exciting. You're up early, watching the parade in your pajamas while your parents yell at you to get dressed and stop snacking to save room. Your parents are running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to get things ready and you're just like, "You do you, guys, I'll be here watching Charlie Brown doing the dead man's float over Midtown while trying to pick the fallen sticky Apple Jacks off the carpet." Then your extended family comes and everyone pinches and hugs you but then moves on.
Later, you're at the kids table smashing your potatoes and chugging your juice with the other misfit non-adults. Your turkey has been torn up into a million pieces and looks more like pulled pork, but that's probably because you put ketchup on it. Once you're done, you're excused, you're free to watch the Disney Channel until you fall asleep on the couch in your first food coma. And that's a wrap. You wake up the next morning in your bed. You don't know how you got back in your PJs or how your covers got so snug around your neck, but it's all good.
Now that you have a few Thanksgivings under your belt, you've got a hang of it. You know what to expect so you know how to work the system. Before the company arrives, you know to take forever getting dressed so that you don't have to help clean. Once they're there you know how to rally the other kids to play outside and bypass that whole golf game on TV situation. You're still at the kid's table but now you're the queen of it. You use the younger kids as minions to help you steal candy and pie and marshmallows off of the sweet potatoes. You know how to guzzle sugar and sneak cola and get a sugar high and get nuts while the adults get drunk. You know you can get away with nearly anything at that late hour when your family is sufficiently buzzed. And just when someone asks you to help clean, you pull the sleep card. You close your eyes on the couch until you wake up in your bed.
Thanksgiving is suddenly annoying. Your relatives are no longer mythological creatures who serve no purpose beyond hugs and compliments. Suddenly they're people too, with issues and questions and concerns, and you liked them a lot better when all they had to say to you was, "Look how you've grown!" Your parents start to ask you to help with things. You want to be upstairs IMing with your friends, and instead you're setting the table and cutting the celery and convincing your grandparents you're going to amount to something. Finally you sneak away to IM with your crush, but some older relative finds you and asks you 101 questions about the Internet and who you're talking to and what you're saying and if you have a boyfriend. You're no longer at the kids table and you're expected to eat more than marshmallows. You're also expected to help clear the table and take yourself to bed. Bleh.
You're actually excited to see your family! You missed them while you were away at school, oh wait, "What? You want me to cook what? You want me to clean what? You need me to run to the store to get what? I have to tell grandma about what?" No, no, no, you thought Thanksgiving was going to be a break, a relaxing day. You didn't realize you'd be put to work. All you really want to do is nurse your hangover with a breakfast sandwich and a little HBO. When your relatives arrive they have so many questions. "What's your major? Where will you intern? How are your grades? Are you dating? Are you being safe? Where will you work? Are you saving? Are you taking care of yourself? Are you eating right?" They never end. You want to eat your food in peace. It's not happening. You're dying to be excused so you can go text your friends and complain about your family.
Free food! Free booze! Thanksgiving is awesome again. Sure, you have more responsibilities than you'd like, but you're about to get a huge free meal and leftovers, too. You can drink all you want and there's no bar tab or cabs to call and cars to abandon. Your relatives are all older now and asking less invasive questions. You might even find that now you're the one with all the questions. "How did you do it grandma? How did you get old? Does the money just come? The house? The wrinkles?" Your relatives are back to being mythological creatures that amaze you. You helped make a pie and it's gorgeous and getting like 50 likes on Instagram — and it's no longer considered epically rude to have your phone at the table so you can keep up with your group chat, sending before and after pictures of your plate and making fake plans for a workout the next morning. You might have to take yourself to bed, but by the time you get there, you're feeling merry, full, and blessed. You have a lot to be thankful for.