Not Your Grandmother's Thanksgiving...

Cullen Murray Kemp



So I don’t really like turkey that much, and I could take or leave pumpkin pie, cranberries, and stuffing. But I do love Thanksgiving.


For the last 35 years my parents and about 20 of their graduate school friends have stuffed themselves (and now all their kids, too) into a sub-urban house in Columbia, Maryland. What happens in that house over a three-day span has never been revealed… until now. Identities will be concealed to preserve reputations.


Ever since I can remember, my Maryland Thanksgivings have been full of fun and mischief—mischief that I now feel is necessary to document. One year, the kids all ventured out on our annual creek walk—but this time with a purpose. The local kids had caught wind of urban legends about pornographic magazines buried in the bushes about three quarters of a mile downstream. This may not seem like a big deal to any of us now, but to a 12-year-old budding pubescent? It was a fucking gold mine. The creek had no bank to walk on so rather than walk on the path, our gang decided that it would be best to leap from rock to rock and risk falling into the icy water (remember this was before global warming and Maryland was actually cold in November). I was always at the head of the Thanksgiving gang athletically but was consistently outdone by a little blond girl who was one of those people that can scale a palm tree, grab a coconut, de-husk it, and make a batch of pina coladas, all while her legs are wrapped tightly around the tree trunk 20 feet in the air. Needless to say, she led the precession of rock-jumping-12-year-old boys toward the pornographic magazines. About 20 minutes into our journey, I stopped dead in my tracks... entranced by what only a 12-year-old horny boy could make out as a pair of breasts hanging in the briars. Sucking the drool from my chin, I proceeded cautiously so as not to lose sight of the Double D’s. By the time we finally got hold of the magazines, we were shivering and covered with scratches from the raspberry thorns that protected the magnificent mags (not that anything but two-dimensional breasts mattered at that point). From there on out, my pre-sexual life would be dedicated to a mental photograph of a Buffy Busty’s gigantic rack. It’s memories like this that last.  


Our Thanksgiving mischief continued over the next decade, but was often outdone by our parents. Heavy drinking and cult movies were always centerpieces to our Thanksgivings. One year, with a plan to watch Reservoir Dogs, Repo Man, and Big Trouble Little China until 5 a.m., someone discovered "Chinese Shit” deep in the cupboard.


“What’s this Chinese shit,” a parent asked, holding a bottle of Chinese grain liquor.


Frightened for everyone’s life, the house-owner and party organizer (let’s just call him Dave) responded, “hell yeah! That’s some potent Chinese shit!” And from there on out, the horrid liquor was known as Chinese Shit, and served as a sort of right of passage for Thanksgiving drinking.


By Thanksgiving this year, the Chinese Shit was long gone, and thanks to Internet porn, creekside nudey magazines have become irrelevant. Yet, the times have rolled on and our mischief morphed into beer drinking and watching a huge hunk of cow rotate and cook over an open fire. As the fat melted off the meat and drink turned to drunk, the hootin’ and hollerin’ began—sounds of “Kurt Russell was epic in Escape From LA” and “these are the five best ways to baste a fucking bird” came to my ears in a flow of familiarity. It was truly glorious.


To me, Thanksgiving has never been about turkey (or any food for that matter). Rather, it’s about fun, raucous times with friends and family, it’s about tradition, and it’s about creating memories that will hold us over until the next November.