Last Thanksgiving I was in India. One man told me that I was a whore because only whores wear one anklet instead of two. I had been wearing one anklet for two months. Hours later, another man cursed me with his sticks.
This year, I was determined to celebrate my favorite American holiday in New Zealand. My Thanksgiving was spent with the five children I babysat, and their grandma, who had been flown in for moral support while the parents were on vacation in Australia for a week.
After begging/harassing the grandma for an hour, she surrendered to my wily ways and made a pumpkin pie. In my twenty-four years of life, the most I've contributed to Thanksgiving dinner has been stuffing the already-made stuffing into the already-prepared turkey. Usually, I'm on clean-up. This comprises washing enough dishes to prepare food for an African village for a month.
Turkeys weren't being sold in the grocery stores in New Zealand. We made chicken. As we didn't have stuffing, I shoved mango slices into the breasts with my fists.
I prepared the plates with mashed potatoes, chicken, and vegetables. I was lighting candles and pouring myself wine when the grandma observed that someone would knock the candles over and the house would catch on fire. I put the candlesticks away and poured myself a bigger glass of wine.
I distributed the plates and washed child hands and sat down with a sigh at my Kiwi Thanksgiving dinner. I inhaled the pumpkin pie scents wafting out of the oven and sipped my Chardonnay, a small smile of satisfaction frolicking across my face. And then I heard the screaming. We had settled ourselves at the table without the three-year-old. He was outside in the backyard.
"I want to eat," he screamed, before all other words descended into incoherent crying.
"Oh no, we forgot about him! Poor kid, I'll grab him," I said and stood up.
"No. He has to learn. He'll come in when he's learned we're not going to react," the grandma replied.
"I'll just get him. I'll calm him down and we'll be inside in about ten seconds," I replied.
"No. He has to learn. Don't get him."
"But... it's Thanksgiving."
"He'll come in when he's ready."
He screamed. For twenty minutes.
During those twenty minutes, the nine-year-old described Age of Empires strategy. He listed the various characters and civilizations featured. He provided a full inventory of weaponry. I had stopped listening by the time he went into detail about the Abus Gun, culverin, indigenous ranged weapons, Rush military combinations, Janissaries, WV's and VC's. I played the martyr and acknowledged him. I felt like I had to, his parents were paying me. While the nine-year-old banged on about the age of Empires, the five-year-old screamed her refusal to eat meat.
"I am a vegan," she shrieked. "I don't want to eat baby chicken heads."
Instead of eating his food, the baby screeched, cried, and shook his head no. He was teething.
The seven-year-old had prepared a presentation on Thanksgiving. She had looked up the holiday online and printed out seven pages of articles. She stood in front of the table and read the articles. Word for word. No pictures adorned her poster. Just tiny little ten-point font.
When the three-year-old finally wandered into the kitchen sniveling, the baby was howling, the five-year-old was shrieking, the nine-year-old was detailing power and splash damage, and the seven-year-old shouted her Thanksgiving Day presentation over all of them.
Eight minutes later, the seven-year-old had been ordered to sit down and finish her dinner. The baby bawled like it had slammed it's hand into a drawer, so his sister dangled a carrot in front of it's face. Baby stopped crying. Grandma thought the seven-year-old was being disruptive and made her move to the end of the table. When the girl lowered herself to sit, she missed the chair and landed on the wood floor with a crack. Grandma removed her plate and refused to let her eat her dinner. I was just concerned for the kid's skull.