I am going to go ahead and say I was 12-ish. I don’t believe I was in high school yet, but it was really close to that time. Maybe 8th grade. (Editor’s Note: Due to sources cited elsewhere, I can confirm I was 13 years old, and I was in 8th grade. I am a fucking genius.)
Anyway, for a long time, I really hated thanksgiving. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated getting off from school, good food, etc. But it was at the cost of dealing with my relatives.
Aside from all the typical things about the American domestic experience that made Jean Shepherd famous, they were just…really interested in anything that was the antithesis of my interests. Every conversation was about football or some sort of sports. Who was old and getting sick (not family, just randoms, gossip), who was in trouble with the law, etc.
Nothing I was interested in.
After the food, everyone sort of disappeared. Back to their homes. Some went on vacation, leaving straight from the thanksgiving site. Which made me wonder why we had to travel so far in the first place just for everyone to leave.
So thanksgiving was something I just endured. I dealt with it. Moved on to black friday, where I played video games in peace when I wasn’t putting up Christmas decorations.
But, this thanksgiving ended up a bit…different…..
First off, it was the first time my uncle was going to host thanksgiving. We arrive at his house, and he runs out to greet me. “Nephew! You got to see what I got going on.” He has me go past his turkey frying set up to the ice chest where he has the turkeys brining. One of them was sitting in a blood red brine. It stunk of vinegar. “Paran, what the hell is that.” He yells, “Sha, I dun brined it in just Tabasco. Wait till you see how it cooks up.”
I made the pass around the relatives (which takes at least an hour to an hour and half) and made it back outside in time to see him pull his Tabasco turkey out of the fryer. It was almost black.
Cut to the meal. My uncle is pouring sweat. “Dis shit is good. Have some nephew.” I politely refused.
Second, all the really old folks seemed to have something better to do. My grandparents were headed to California on vacation. The older aunts and uncles had other things they were going off to do. That left my parents, and all the aunts and uncles their age…and their kids. The young kids mostly headed off to my Uncle’s spawn(s)’ room to play with toys and shit.
This leads us to the last, and key element. There wasn’t any football games anyone was interested in. I have no idea why this magical occurence happened, but no one wanted to watch football. So, kind of out of no where, the aunts and uncles take my older cousins and go play a game of baseball outside. I was invited, but my disdane for sports was well documented at this point.
This left me with full control of my Uncle’s BIG ASS TV with expanded cable. At home the biggest TV we had was 21 inch and basic cable. He had one of those gigantic 51″ monstrosities and every god damn channel on planet earth. I just started flipping through the channels, and to be honest, it was mostly crap on Thanksgiving day. Christmas movies, specials, etc. Then I make it to Sci-Fi, which I didn’t have….and I found this:
I did know what MST3K was because friends of mine (whose parents got them expanded cable) taped it on occasion, and I watched some. AND because I had bought the MST3K Movie VHS that very summer for my birthday. I was mesmerized. I laughed, I cried, I hurled.
Time past…and I realized at some point, I wasn’t alone. My uncle came in without saying anything and started watching it. Eventually, he started laughing. Then my parents came in, and we all kind of finished the last half hour together. It was fucking weird. I hadn’t even explained what the hell was going on. But, they seemed to organically get the joke as it was going on. For example, my mom laughed hysterically every time they brought back the packers bit:
Eventually, the episode ended and some movie started. Courtesy of the nerds on the internet, I now know it was Star Wars. I just remember leaving to go home afterwards. I kind of want to think this is one of the things that led my dad to get expanded cable, but who knows. I watched every MST3K rerun I could from there.
Until I was writing this story, I didn’t know that Sci-Fi only did this once, and I just so happened to be lucky enough to watch it. And with my family no less.
I guess the moral of the story is, watch this year’s Turkey Day. It’s on a ton of platforms, but mainly twitch. Its good for you, and it’s good for your family. Keep circulating the tapes.