If you're thinking, Oh, crap, I still have to figure out what I'm doing on Thursday; there's no buying an organic turkey now!, we hear you. Or if you're more like: Help! The New York Times wants to know if I want my meal to be hedonistic or classic and they're sharing stories of Thanksgiving overachievers, but I ate the whole box of dried stuffing the other night when I came home drunk and that was all I'd bought in preparation for the holiday and probably I am truly hopeless, we hear you. Maybe you're thrilled for the mashed potatoes (yum, mashed potatoes) or stuffing your mom makes, but you're dreading what's suddenly to come, that immersion back into food, family, and forced fun after nearly a year of doing whatever it is that you do on your own. We hear you, too. It's all pretty surreal. How does a grownup adult person prepare? What is there to give thanks for? There are things! Here are a few.
Days Off. Even if you're the most crotchety of crotchety types, it's hard to look a gift day off in the mouth. Hopefully, probably, you don't have to work on Thursday, and can instead join America in stuffing faces, lying on the couch, and engaging in friendly shouting matches over the stupidity of certain football teams or politicians or lifestyle habits with those weird cousins you haven't seen in years, thank goodness. You can lose the remote control under your butt and find it hours later, when it's time to leave, and there will be inexplicable joy in that. If you get work emails, you're excused, pretty much universally, from having to respond to them for at least 24 hours. If you do have to work—perhaps you are a cop, or a fireman, an emergency medical professional, or a person who simply cannot be excused from what he or she does for a living on that day—we hope, hope, hope that you are getting overtime. You deserve it, and seriously, thanks for all you do.
Leftovers. (Also: Eating, Just Eating.) Is there another day in which one may eat gratuitously, happily, going back for seconds and thirds, then take a nap and get up and do it over again, ending the booze-infused turkey coma with sugar-high wave from consuming a bunch of baked goods, washed down with Irish coffee? And then doing it all over yet again?! Is there a better breakfast, by the way, than pumpkin pie? Is there a better midnight snack than a real turkey sandwich, or cold stuffing eaten from the fridge as you stand there in your nightgown before you return to your childhood bedroom and snuggle up to your old bear? If you're lucky you'll go home with a Tupperware container or two, and you can live off that for the rest of the week.
Family. And Your Weird, Special Family Traditions. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you can't choose them. But hopefully if you can't stand them you can also appreciate them for what they are. It's just one day out of 365, you know. No one makes stuffing like your mom does. If you've ever had Thanksgiving away from family, away from the people who served it up during your formative years, you know how essential those strange, passed-down recipes and traditions are, how much they stick and how much you can even smell them sometimes. Maybe you go to a movie every Thanksgiving night; maybe you get up in the wee hours to hit the Black Friday sales with the whole gang. Maybe you drink bad white wine with mom and dad into the morning and gossip about politics, or simply sit in that old recliner still dented with your body's high school contours (sit with care). These are the folks who knew you when, the real you, and they'll never forget that you even as you change. There's something kind of wonderful in that, these are people to whom you are a living memory. (Repeat as mind-mantra over and over again when your aunt/uncle/that neighbor guy why is he even still here? asks if you're ever going to settle down with a nice doctor/have babies/get a real job/laser off your tattoos/lose five pounds/get a nose job/move back home and take care of your parents.)