Ever since I started my exchange semester here at USC, I have been super excited to experience a real Thanksgiving with the American branch of my family. After a sketchy Greyhound bus ride to Las Vegas — during which the bus driver and a woman started yelling at each other and security had to escort the woman off the bus — and another day of road tripping with my aunt and uncle, I made it to Wally’s Hot Springs in Nevada.
Based on my first Thanksgiving, this is my reflection on what giving thanks like a real ’Murican is all about.
Thanksgiving is about being with family. Especially when this means squeezing nine people into a two-bedroom cabin. Luckily, my cousin and her husband did not live too far away so they could go home every night and come back the next morning. However, they did grab the opportunity to get a few good nights of sleep by leaving their adorable little kids, who wake up at five in the morning and then want to play, with us in the cabin. We eventually worked out sleeping arrangements, with some minor aggressions, and then had ourselves a grand ol’ time of hanging out together. We retold childhood stories, played guitar and sat outside in the hot springs while it was snowing.
Thanksgiving is about food and drenching everything in cheese. My U.S. family is normally very health-conscious, but one night a year, that all goes out the window. I estimate that at least half my Thanksgiving dinner consisted of food covered in melted cheese, and I had bacon with pretty much every meal. I honestly think that some of my family members were enjoying the mac ‘n cheese and cheesy broccoli more than the impeccably prepared turkey.
Thanksgiving is about being slightly but continuously intoxicated. The trick is to start early (noon at the latest) and spread your drinks over the day to keep your blood-alcohol content in that magical sweet spot where you love everyone and everything but can still stay classy. Our only slip-up was when my cousin’s husband, who used to be a bartender, made us a mixed drink that turned out to be much stronger than it tasted. This resulted in the yelling of a few obscenities and a lot of laughter. He then ate the remaining third of the delicious looking apple pie that my aunt had made and I had not tasted yet while I was gone for half an hour. I still hold a grudge.
Finally, Thanksgiving is about mentioning the pilgrims and Native Americans once, and then wondering whether they ate turkey back in the day and, if not, what they did eat and where the turkey tradition came from (seriously where did it come from?). I expected us to follow a type of ceremony that you see in movies, in which everyone says what they are thankful for. This did not happen. Instead, we just devoured turkey and cheesy things like there was no tomorrow and philosophized about it afterwards.
I spent about four days travelling for three days of family fun and cheese, but it was totally worth it. I have to say though, I am pretty happy to spend some quiet time by myself after this family overload and sleep deprivation. Now, it is nap and detox time.