John Carlson: Thanksgiving, In Retrospect

It’s about time to gather around the Christmas bush. Photo by: Nancy Carlson It’s about time to gather around the Christmas bush. Photo by: Nancy Carlson

By: John Carlson—

By the time you read this, I will have survived my 68th Thanksgiving.

Sixty-eight strikes me as lots of Thanksgivings, so I feel confident in explaining exactly what I am thinking, feeling and doing right now. That is even though this column is being written fully two weeks before Turkey Day, so I can sneak in a quick Florida vacation.

First, in keeping with yesterday’s holiday, I feel incredibly thankful. What I feel incredibly thankful for  is not being out there with the Black Friday shopping hordes. All night long, I tossed in bed with a recurrent nightmare about going Black Friday shopping. Finally, I woke up screaming. In my dream, I had stumbled in the checkout aisle while buying a pack of pumpkin-spice chewing gum. Within seconds, a gang of runaway mommies rolled over me. As they charged the cash register, from underneath I glimpsed their carts piled high with Baby Alive Potty Dance Dolls, holiday-themed Pez dispensers and, for those kids getting an early leg up on their criminal careers, Fingerlings Untamed Jailbreak Playsets.

Now, I know lots of perfectly nice Muncie mommies are out happily Black Friday shopping at this very  moment, and I’m all for them. It’s just that, personally, I would rather be dead. Instead, Nancy and I will be home appreciatively staring at our festive Christmas bush. To heck with Christmas trees, which are way overrated. True, our Christmas bush was just your common poinsettia four years ago, but then something weird, maybe even magical, happened.

It lived. And lived. And lived. And lived.

For years during my bachelorhood, Mom gave me a poinsettia every Thanksgiving. This was to brighten my day, plus lend a hint of holiday charm and cheer to my dingy, dusty, disgusting, stinky, cobweb-strewn, vermin-ridden bachelor pad. And every year, way before Christmas arrived, that poinsettia appeared to have taken a good look around my crappy apartment, fallen into a deep clinical depression and decided to end it all. It was dead as your proverbial door nail. But now that Nancy is in charge of the poinsettia, along with everything else in our house except buying booze and brushing my teeth, this plant is thriving.

Oh sure, its branches are way too flimsy to hold our most treasured decorations, those sentimental pieces lovingly collected since childhood. You know, things like the tiny reindeer, the pretty little jingle bells and the Tootin’ Santa Tree Topper, bent over with his pants to his ankles in the “Automatically Moons You” mode.

None of that matters, though. We’ll both sit on the floor, staring up at it like a couple little kids, our eyes full of wonder. What Nancy’s eyes will wonder is how she made it through another bountiful Thanksgiving dinner with a husband whose sole contribution was passing the salt shaker. What my eyes will wonder is how I’m going to get my decrepit self back up off the floor without popping another  hernia and begging Santa Claus for a brand new Christmas truss.

Mostly, though, what I will be thinking about today involves yesterday’s Thanksgiving dinner, and what the heck happened to it.

Like, is there any turkey left? It’s weird. Thanksgiving morning, in the midst of carving the bird, I feel like I am up to my elbows in dark meat and white meat. Having carried the platter to the table, I effusively offer huge servings to everyone seated around it. When it’s over, we stick what still seems like ten pounds of leftover bird back in the fridge. Then I take a little nap. Seven hours later I wake up and return to the fridge to gather the centerpiece of my favorite Thanksgiving meal. By this, I mean the turkey sandwich on rye, lightly sprinkled with pepper and thickly slathered in mayonnaise.

But now, there’s not enough turkey left to make a slider.

Ditto for what were the leftover mashed potatoes, gravy and dressing. And don’t even get me going about the missing pumpkin, pecan and apple pies, let alone the squirt can drained of Reddi Wip. Running to the bathroom mirror in horror, I spot whipped cream dried in my eyebrows, plus a couple sticky pecans stuck to the tip of my nose. Gasping, I’m repelled by the scent ricocheting back at me off the mirror: cranberry breath! Then, noticing my upper lip looks all lumpy, I run a finger between my teeth and gums just to feel around.

How did those olives get stuck up there?!?!

Then I realize with horror that tryptophan, the amino acid in turkey that knocks you out cold, has struck yet again.

God help me, I’ve been sleep-eating!

Unconsciously raiding the fridge that afternoon, I apparently ingested pound after pound of our tastiest leftovers. Now my family members, with hollow looks in their eyes, are shuffling around the kitchen trying to fashion an evening meal from a couple flappy sheets of dimpled turkey skin and a yam. Meanwhile, the front of my bulging pants appear to have a soccer ball crammed under their waistband. It will take hours of digestion before I can even waddle off to bed, let alone waddle up under the covers.

Still, I smile.

It was a pretty good Thanksgiving, for me anyway.


A former longtime feature writer and columnist for The Star Press in Muncie, Indiana, John Carlson is a storyteller with an unflagging appreciation for the wonderful people of East Central Indiana and the tales of their lives, be they funny, poignant, inspirational or all three.  John’s columns appear on Muncie Journal every Friday.