Originally written Thanksgiving 2011 but the feelings of betrayal haven’t faded!
I vividly remember the day I realized Santa Claus didn’t exist. I did not handle it well. A wave of tears followed that lasted nearly the entire walk home from third grade. The Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy crumpled simultaneously. It was all or nothing. Or so I thought.
Thanksgiving is a rare holiday that has remained (relatively) unadulterated by Hallmark. It’s no secret who slaves over a hot stove preparing a dinner all about people coming together and sharing food and love. And giving thanks. There’s no culturally formulated magical Native American or pilgrim children are made to believe in. That’s part of the beauty of the holiday. Of course leave it to my parents to concoct their own Thanksgiving
The subject of ethnic background comes up more often than you might think. It seems to follow, “Do you have any siblings?”, especially on first dates. The long answer is: “Majority English. Also Scottish, French, Dutch. Probably something else I’m forgetting…” The short answer is WASP- White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. In some ways my family goes against WASP cliché- mainly in that we don’t have any money. But the way we keep secrets, we might as well be Charlotte and Trey Macdougal.
21 years old. Over a decade since the magical belief in Santa. I was about to graduate college, I’d finished my thesis and was squarely in the cocky-senior-year place of “I know everything, just give me my diploma”. I thought I knew everything. I was an adult. A mere four years later I can look back, sigh, and think How foolish the young can be.
My mother and father decided it was time. That I was old enough to handle a deep, dark, family secret.
They sat down and told me, “The turkey you ate every Thanksgiving growing up…it wasn’t actually turkey.”
My father paused, I held my breath.
“It was chicken.”
It didn’t matter that this made perfect sense. That a turkey would have been ridiculous for our small, often just the three of us, Thanksgiving dinners. That chicken arguably tastes better. No. I felt betrayed.
Santa, the Easter Bunny, and now this!? I wailed, tapping into teenage hysterics I’d all but forgotten.Why did you feel you had to call it a turkey? I couldn’t have handled the truth? The aforementioned thesis was directing a play and for the first time in college, I hadn’t done much acting that semester. I took full advantage of any dramatic outlet. Why must every holiday be a lie??
In a side by side comparison, the difference is obvious. But not so to the eye of the innocent!
Since then, I haven’t spent a single Thanksgiving with my parents. This is purely coincidence. Tomorrow, I’ll be enjoying turkey with good friends, but a good part of me will miss my parents and their pretend turkey.