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the wayward son gives thanks
tangled in turkey-day traditions
by roger striffler

I'm not going home for Thanksgiving this year.

That might not sound like a big deal to you, but believe me, it wasn't a decision I made lightly. The holidays are a big thing with my family, and it'll be tough not being there. In fact, in over thirty years, this will be only the third time I've ever missed a Thanksgiving with the family.

The first time was in 1988, when I decided to go to Jamaica with some friends from work. I didn't think it would be such a big deal, since I'd been on temporary assignment in NY and had been living with my parents for months. I was seeing the family all the time now. No one would even miss me.

Uh, wrong.

Not only did they notice, but it was a decision that would haunt me for a long time to come. I swear that for years after that my folks and I would have the same conversation:

Folks: "So, are you coming home for Thanksgiving this year?"
Me: "Of course I am."
Folks: "Well you know, sometimes you don't..."

Ok, you win. Sometimes, (like once every 25 years), I don't.

For the next ten years I was a regular poster child for "home for the holidays" good cheer. I would drive up from Pennsylvania, and later, North Carolina for the traditional family gathering and feast. Times were good, and I think everyone had just about forgotten (and forgiven) my little family faux-pas of '88, when it happened again.

Work had been incredibly busy, and I was putting in all kinds of long hours. I was getting run down, and had a deadline to meet only days before Thanksgiving. Frankly, I was wiped, and I was shocked that it was my parents who suggested that it might be better if I didn't try to make the 700 mile trek this year. I was disappointed not to be seeing them, and was pretty depressed at the prospect of Thanksgiving alone, but they were right, it made sense to stay. Fortunately I was rescued by a couple of my good friends who welcomed me to celebrate my first NC Thanksgiving with them. Although I missed the family, it was a very special Thanksgiving, and one I'll always remember fondly.

Which brings us to this year.

Like my initial crime back in '88, this year I'm not going home on purpose. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is that if I did, I'd be turning around and making the same 700 mile trip three weeks later for Christmas, and that just seems kind of crazy, or at the very least, exhausting. The real reason, believe it or not, has to do with tradition. While it may seem that I'm breaking with tradition by not going home, I'm actually staying in town to participate in a new tradition.

Every year, my good friend Rob invites all of his friends who aren't going home to be with their families, to come for Thanksgiving dinner at his house. I've heard stories from past years, and it really sounds like a good time. So this year, I'm joining them, which means that my Thanksgiving day is going to be very different in a lot of ways.

For starters, there's a better than even chance that I'm going to be drunk. This isn't a goal of mine by any means, but as I understand it, the basic plan for the day goes something like this: people show up, generally with wine, which gets opened almost immediately. Hanging out and talking turns to meal preparation. Several more bottles of wine meet an untimely demise. Assuming all goes well in the kitchen, dinner follows, capped off with making music in the studio and a glass or two of wine. My head hurts just thinking about it.

Then there's the trip. As America takes to the highway like a horde of spastic lemmings, I'll have traded my 12-hour drive up the northeast corridor for a 15-minute jaunt across town to a beautifully renovated home in Historic Oakwood. I've effectively saved myself an entire day. Seems a shame I'll be spending it drunk.

Ah, and then there's the food. In making the decision to stay, I'll be forgoing my mother's incredible, juicy, tender, melts-in-your-mouth turkey, to say nothing of the fabulous homemade apple, mincemeat, and pumpkin pies. And what do I have to look forward to? Well, let me put it this way. The guests will be predominantly single, and predominantly male. Neither of these groups has a reputation for excelling in the culinary arts. I doubt Rob was thinking about Thanksgiving when he got married in October, since he married the love of his life, not Martha Stewart. So I'm sure the meal will be an adventure. Maybe I'll be surprised. Maybe I'll be glad I'm drunk.

Meanwhile, up in NY, someone is going to have to take over my job of mashing the potatoes. I hope that whoever it is gets them really smooth, with no lumps - just the way my sister likes them. Dad will have to go back to carving the turkey, which is probably as it should be anyway, and no one will have to yell at my dog for chasing the cat under the table (since I'm not going, I won't be bringing my dog.) So at least in some small way, I know I'll be missed.

But when it comes right down to it, Thanksgiving day is all about giving thanks, and being around my family reminds me of how much I really have to be thankful for. Oddly enough, that part won't be different this year. I'll still be with family. Maybe not the one I was born into, but the one I've built. Both families mean everything to me. They are the people I care most about in the world, the people for whom I'm most thankful, and wherever I may be, neither is ever far from my thoughts.


See that job title? Check it out: "Spy". How cool is that? I know, you're probably wondering what it means to be a spy for an international organization like Intrepid Media, huh? Well I'd love to tell you, but I can't. It's all part of the spy game, baby.

more about roger striffler


no more mr. nice guy
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topic: humor
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michelle von euw
11.22.00 @ 9:30a

I always thought that our founding fathers made a major mistake when they put Thanksgiving a mere three weeks before Christmas. Thanksgiving should be in early October or late February, to let us space out the holidays better. (That's just one of the reasons why our country needed women participating in the process.)

adam kraemer
11.22.00 @ 9:51a

"Seems a shame I'll be spending it drunk"? That's just silly talk. Remember: a day not wasted is a day wasted.

roger striffler
11.22.00 @ 12:18p

Hey hey now...my family reads this. I have to keep of some semblence of being responsible. Really Mom, I won't be that drunk.

jack bradley
11.22.00 @ 9:07p

Note to Roger's Mom:

Call me. We'll talk.

jay colucci
11.23.00 @ 12:00p

I think you might want to keep that "fallen angel" halloween costume handy, Roger.

michael driscoll
11.25.00 @ 1:26p

To all disbelievers: Roger did not appear drunk at all during the festivities. I do think he almost bit his nails off watching me carve my first turkey.
It's OK Roger, finely carved pieces of turkey are so overrated, and I'm glad to have been a part of your "hat trick" of non-NY Thanksgivings.

roger striffler
11.30.00 @ 3:52p

Aww...thanks Mikey - that's why I love ya! (and don't think I didn't notice the word appear in there!)

You did a fine job carving the turkey - just like my Dad would have done...

rachel tarbell
12.26.00 @ 11:38a

as a member of Rog's family- I would like you all to know that- NONE of us were surprised that he wasn't coming home. He only once had to carve a turkey because my father had heart surgery and we can't figure out who likes the creamy potatoes besides HIM!! I personally wasn't too surprised he'd be half drunk!!

jay colucci
12.27.00 @ 11:20a

Finally, the truth comes out from a member of Roger's Family. Thanks for keeping him in line, Rachel.

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