I've never really liked Thanksgiving. Coming on the heels of Halloween, the day of dark magic, candy and costumes, dance parties and general ghastliness, Thanksgiving Day feels like someone letting the air out of a balloon. The food, even when good, is just okay. Why can't we be thankful with a bowl of homemade pasta and meatballs, or tacos and guacamole, or a big, juicy cheeseburger? It makes no sense that the symbol of gratitude is the blandest bird on earth. It makes even less sense that on the one day a year we are supposed to reflect on our good fortune and give thanks, we're forced to do so with the people who are genetically predisposed to drive us insane.
   I've always thought that was the very worst part of Thanksgiving; the forced family time. We'd all get along just fine on a casual summer Saturday night, laying around Grandpa's pool in our damp swimsuits eating fruit salad and ice cream until the sun went down and the mosquitos came out. Fast forward a few months to November and those relaxed conversations shortened like the days themselves, and were replaced with frantic phone calls about where the holidays meal was to be held, what time, who is making what and speaking of which, who all was coming, anyway? Thanksgiving day would arrive and my mother and grandmother, the co-queens of any family event and setters of the general mood, would be stressed and grouchy, having been up since five that morning and having received no help from the likes of us. My father would be absorbed in a football game while Alex and I found new ways to torment each other. Without school to keep us from spending too much time together, each day of Thanksgiving break was another epic battle of World War III.
   I'd wake up in the morning already on edge, knowing I'd find the bathroom locked for a good hour until Mom or Dad would finally make him come out. After the bathroom fight we'd move on to who stole whose stuff, whose turn it was to pick the channel, answer the phone, use the computer, help Mom in the kitchen, not help Mom in the kitchen. Who was in a particular room first, who looked more stupid that day, who was smarter, who was faster, who had more friends, who was better at drawing, who could throw a ball farther, who would be more likely to work at Taco Bell when they grew up. The nitpicking and name-calling would eventually lead to a pinch, then a slap, then a punch, then a full out brawl. With our parents too preoccupied with their Thanksgiving tasks to take notice, we'd get into full blown WWE style wrestling matches, complete with whatever blunt objects were within reach. We'd stand up, sweaty and red faced, breathing heavily while gripping a vacuum cleaner attachment and an antique rug beater (god, that thing stung), staring each other down, waiting for the next moment to strike. These fights would only end when our grandparents arrived, as we were too scared to fight in front of our grandfather. After straightening ourselves up and wiping the blood off the floor, we'd make our way to the dinner table, quietly shoving each into walls along the way. Still seething, I'd glare at Alex across the table, watching him shovel the mountain of food he'd piled onto his plate and mixed together into one disgusting, gravy-smothered heap he wouldn't come close to finishing, trying to hold myself back from flinging my forkful of mashed potatoes into his stupid face. But the feelings of ill were no longer reciprocal. Once Alex had food in front of him, the entire world disappeared and no one or anything else mattered, not even World War III. "This is real good, Mom!" he'd exclaim with every first bite of each dish, the food nearly falling out of his mouth when he smiled. Alex was the kind of eater people liked to cook for, as he was actually, genuinely, thankful. Seeing how happy he was, I softened and smiled...
   so I'd look less guilty when he was suddenly kicked hard under the table.

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