of the best parts of holidays is developing family traditions. Maybe
it’s cutting your own tree from the neighbor’s yard, publicly stating
what you’re thankful for in haiku form, or having the kids try on
grandma’s dentures, it’s nice to have a family bonding activity to
look forward to every year. Here at Casa de Gosselink, our holiday
tradition has become known as the “Thanksgiving Freak-out.”
Life used to be so simple, just like the song. Every year when Thanksgiving
would roll around, we would load up the car and “Over the river and
through the wood to grandmother’s house” we would go. I’m crossing
rivers, going through woods like crazy; even jingling things just
to be on the safe side. The point being, I was meeting my holiday
lyric proscribed responsibilities.
The best part was, I’d roll in with a pie or something, hug the family,
and then call dibs on the biggest recliner for the turkey, football
induced coma. At that point, all my responsibilities had been met
and it was time to express my thanks with gluttony and sloth. Hooray
gluttony and sloth!
But then a funny thing happened on the way to grandma’s house – I
got all old, married, and begrudgingly responsible. For the first
7, 8 years of marriage and child rearing, we still went to grandma’s
house, which worked perfectly for me. But then, out of nowhere, the
wife gets all “It’s time we live up to our familial obligations. We
need to entertain here. "
Okay. I’m thinking she means cupcakes after a dance recital or something.
But no, for Thanksgiving she wants to feed the entire majestic herd
of Gosselinks rumbling across the fruited plains. I wish had been
drinking a soda at the time, because if there was ever a time for
a spit-take, this was it.
After going to the fridge, getting a diet Dr. Pepper, walking back
to the living room, and making her say it again so I could spit my
drink out, Jerry Lewis style (If you’re not in the moment, a spit-take
really loses its essence), I cleaned up the mess and got to rationalizing
You know, it’s really just another meal, just with some fairly easy
to cook traditions. A little turkey, some mashed potatoes, crack open
some cranberries and see if anyone will actually eat them, what’s
the big deal, I figure. Sometimes being naïve is endearing, but most
of the time it just gets you in trouble, like here.
start the freak-out the weekend before Thanksgiving. First of all,
the wife and I have terrible communication problems. This stems from
the fact I speak English, whereas she speaks Crazy Talk. Words come
out of her mouths, words I even think I recognize, but what she is
saying and what I am hearing are totally different things.
For instance, she’ll say we have to clean the house. Okay, I know
what that means. Make the kids pick up their junk, run the vacuum
over a few rooms, and promise to neither spit clean the glasses nor
do spit-takes, whether in the moment or not.
No, that’s not what she means at all. Apparently, the word “clean”
has varying degrees of meaning, not from suffixes, but from the inflection
you put on it, and they build in intensity the further you conjugate
them. Come to find out, Crazy Talk is a Romance language like Spanish
and French, for it adds meaning and tense through conjugation.
There is “regular clean,” then “friends are visiting clean,” then
“showing house to perspective buyers clean,” but what you do at Thanksgiving
is make it “in-law clean.”
“In-law clean” means sucking the joy, life, and any hint of humanity
out of the house. I’ll be proudly standing in my freshly swept and
Swiffered kitchen when she’ll walk in with the industrial mop and
welding helmet. This leads to the first freak out conversation of
“I don’t want you to leave this kitchen until the floor is so clean
you can eat off it.” “So if I drop some mash potatoes during the meal,
I can just scoop them up and plop them in mouth?” “No, don’t be ridiculous.”
“What’s the point of a floor you can eat off if you can’t eat off
it?” “Okay, funny boy, how about you make it so clean surgery could
be performed on it.” “Ooooh, brother Pete the doctor is coming – you
think he’ll do surgery? That would be cool! Maybe he could give me
some pect implants. That way I’ll be barrel chested instead of just
Then she’ll freak out some more, start the Crazy Talk, and everyone
is in a bad mood. This bad mood builds until Thursday.
After five days of freak out, it’s finally Thanksgiving Day and about
an hour before the guests arrive. The wife, having been up since 4
a.m., has 87 things going at once in the kitchen and is FREAKING OUT,
the kids can’t find their shoes, ribbons or something and are FREAKING
OUT, and I decide this would be the perfect time to do something irrelevant,
like shine all 4 pairs of my dress shoes. This increases the intensity
of the freak out to the breaking point.
But, just when I think we’re all going to snap and make the local
newscast in a bad way, a kid will shout, “Poppa John and Nana are
here!” and miraculously, we will all assemble at the front door, in
matching outfits even, and be the very picture of domestic bliss and
By sundown, the turkey will have been juicy, the conversation fun,
I’ll have refrained from eating off the floor and spit-taking, and
everyone will go home happy. Most importantly, the family and I get
to bed early. We have to rest up for our traditional Christmas freak-out.