Tag Archives: holidays

Thanksgiving grinch

There’s one particular Facebook friend I have who I’m always offending. She’s in Ireland, and whenever I say something self-deprecating about the Irish or the country, to endear myself to the Americans, or ingratiate myself, or whatever, she takes it to heart. I suppose I’m gone long enough now that I’m not allowed do that any more. But I can’t criticise America either, because that’s just rude (and it has enough problems right now), which leaves me in a tricky no-woman’s-land of having to be polite about everywhere, and there’s no humour in that.

Anyway, right now is when I humourlessly criticise America and sound like a foreigner, because it’s the night before Thankgsiving and I never feel less American than on Thanksgiving. It just doesn’t have any meaning for me. It feels like fake Christmas. I don’t want turkey, but I certainly don’t want turkey and cranberry sauce and all the trimmings (the wrong trimmings, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie and green beans instead of roast potatoes and sage and onion stuffing and plum pudding and brandy butter) at the end of November. All week I’ve been forgetting to wish people a happy thanksgiving or to enquire politely about their travel/hosting plans or to even register that it’s not going to be a regular Thursday. I don’t have a late November holiday spirit. I have no interest in acquiring one. I am a Thanksgiving Grinch.

Which is why this year we’re avoiding the issue entirely and running away. Rather than have a perfectly nice dinner with perfectly nice friends tomorrow, we are driving to the beach and staying in a hotel until it’s all gone away. I suppose we’ll have to eat dinner of some sort tomorrow, and I suppose it’ll be in a fairly traditional establishment so that my kids can eat pizza and/or french fries, since that’s all they eat in restaurants, so I can’t pander to my utmost desires and eat something totally nontrad like Indian or Thai, but it won’t be turkey, and I really hope nobody will even apologise for the fact that it’s not.

In other, more positive news, we have all had flu shots now, which is my major achievement for this winter and puts me well up on last winter. Checkups and dentist visits are scheduled, I have bought Christmas cards, and I’m getting on quite well with the second draft of the second book, thank you very much. Though I don’t think that’ll be out before Christmas. Not this Christmas, at least.


Italy Report I (assuming that there will be more before we leave, which may or may not transpire)

The wonderful thing about going on holidays in a place you’ve been to before and you’ll probably be again, whether it’s Dungarvan or Duck or Clermant-Ferrand, is that there’s not really any pressure to do stuff. You don’t absolutely have to see all the sights and visit all the visitor attractions because you’ve probably seen them already or else you’ll no doubt see them the next time.

This takes a lot of the pressure off when it turns out nobody got up till 10am again and the kids are now unwilling to be extracted from the pool because of course they only ever start playing with the other children ten minutes before you were going to go out. So you crack open another paperback and turn over on your sun lounger and say “Oh well” and “Do we have any salami and cheese for lunch or should I wander over to the shop?” and then you just stay there contemplating where the sunscreen has gone and that you should probably reapply it to someone, somewhere.

(If you’re in Dungarvan, the sunscreen comment may not apply. But then, sunny southeast, you know. Playground of the gods and all that.)

My little proto-feminist is swinging on the swing chair singing at the top of her lungs “Girls are the best. Girls are princesses and boys have to do everything we say. You can eat their brains…”

The seven-year-old from Dublin just told Dash that “In my country, hardly anyone likes peanuts.” I called him out on this, since I am definitely sure that not everyone in Ireland dislikes peanuts, but he maintains that none of his friends do.

Dash asked me when we could come back to Italy. Our holiday isn’t even halfway over but he seems to have embraced the European lifestyle.

“I don’t know.”
“Can we come next summer?”
“No. It’s too expensive to fly here from America. If we lived in Ireland we probably could.”
“Let’s move to Ireland, then.”

Yesterday we had a classic Grumpy Waiter Experience. I had thought that such things only happened in France, but apparently there’s an Italian strain too. We sat in a lovely outdoor restaurant with a breathtaking view and cloth napkins. The cloth napkins should have immediately alerted me to the fact that this was Too Posh For My Children, but I wasn’t paying attention.

Breathtaking view over fields to Lago Maggiore

Mabel decided not to sit at the table but posted herself in a grump on the step. Since we were the only customers on the terraza, I was fine with that. But the waiter, on coming out and seeing this, decided this was his chance to show off his excellent English and, well, I don’t know – bond with the parents by laying down the law or bond with the child by being amusingly stern – one of those things. It did not come out as either, though. He asked us her name and then called her over to her place, saying she had to sit down. Mabel was unimpressed. So was I, because he wasn’t coming across as either friendly or amusing, and all she was doing was sitting on a step in a bad mood, and in nobody’s way.

There were no pizzas on the menu. There were no breadsticks on the table. When I asked about breadsticks I was told in no uncertain terms that they did not have any. When we asked about apple juice (the kid drink of choice around here) we were told that they don’t have apple juice because other establishments have apple juice. We ordered an orange juice for Mabel and nothing for Dash.

The following things happened:

  • The waiter misheard B’s order for something else beginning with C and brought him a caprese salad. When we said this, he accused B of saying Caprese. He did not apologise for bringing the wrong thing and seemed ready to get into a fistfight over who was right but grudgingly said he’d bring the other thing.
  • The orange juice was red. It looked like Campari to me but it tasted good to Mabel so that was fine. When I tasted it, it was basically Robinsons/KoolAid.
  • I asked for plain pasta for Mabel, with just oil. It came with a dusting of parmesan on top, which of course we did not want. When I Very Politely and with my best Customer Smile said that we needed it to have nothing but a little oil, our waiter went into Defensive Mode immediately and explained to me that in Italy, all pasta comes with cheese. Yes, but I asked for just oil. Please could we have some with no cheese? Just a little?
  • When her pasta finally came out, long after her father’s replacement lunch finally came out, of course she refused to taste it. History does not record the waiter’s reaction to this entirely predictable eventuality.
  • I took the children down the road to the small cafe where the people were friendly and they had a packet of crisps/chips each for lunch, followed by a large Cornetto ice cream. The other members of our party followed at their leisure and everyone was much happier.

Children with huge ice creams

Then we found a giant church on the hilltop where the body of Santa Margharita was right there on the altar (putting St Katharine of Siena’s finger, which I saw many years ago, not to mention Oliver Plunkett’s heart, well in the ha’penny place), and explored a fort that may or may not have been built by the Medicis.

Such is Italy. That’s enough sightseeing for now.

Notes on Thanksgiving

That is, notes about Thanksgiving that I wrote on the day of Thanksgiving.

The point of Thanksgiving, I’ve decided, is that it’s one holiday the whole country can get behind.(Except the Native Americans, maybe. I’m not sure how they feel about it.) Instead of trying to smush a bunch of different religious celebrations into one time of year, everyone can just eat turkey and be thankful and watch the Macy’s parade on TV and lapse into a tryptophan coma at the same time. It’s pretty much like SuperBowl Sunday except you don’t have to watch the game. And less finger food; you’ll probably need to use a fork, at least to eat your mashed potatoes.

The other point is to provide a second holiday in the winter season, so that you can spend one with your own family and one with your in-laws. In a country this big, where people often end up far from where their families live, this is a very important consideration. You can’t just do Christmas Day at your house and Stephen’s Day (that’s the day after) at his folks’, and vice versa next year, the way we do in Ireland.

Further, another point of the whole thing is so that everyone can bond on Twitter and Facebook about how much they’re panicking about it, how fabulous they menu they’ve planned is, how they’re simplifying their lives and ordering out this year, how gross Martha Stewart’s Twitter photos of food are, and how they’ve now eaten way too much and cannot possibly move off the sofa for another week.

And don’t forget the way it provides a handy entrance point to Christmas. You can complain about Christmas creep all you like before Thanksgiving, but once that’s done it’s jingle all the way, baby, and no two ways about it. Many people put up their Christmas decorations as part of their Thanksgiving ritual, just to hammer this fact home.

Mostly, the point of Thanksgiving is to give the poor overworked American populace a chance to take a day off, or even three, without depleting their teeny tiny vacation allowance. They will probably spend most of this time stuck in traffic, but dammit, they will have their turkey.

And pie. Pie is very important at Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks for reading, wherever you are.