"We had a wonderful Thanksgiving, with many friends and family."
It's the kind of thing you say after the holiday, when anyone asks. My friend Arnie used those exact words to me when we met up the morning after the holiday. But then he added something that really got my attention.
"It was mostly family," he said, "except for Granby Sweet."
"Granby was at your Thanksgiving?" I asked, surprised. Granby is not a "people person." He lives alone and likes it. He's not unpleasant or annoying, but he's not the life of the party, either. Most people would say he's more of an acquaintance than a friend.
But he is a joiner. Arnie and I know him from different groups we belong to: hiking, Rotary, library volunteers, bridge groups, that sort of thing.
"Yes, and he ate like he hadn't seen food in a week! We're not good friends, but last week I asked him what he was doing for Thanksgiving, and he looked sad and said, 'I just hope the Gas and Go Away is open again this year. Maybe I'll be able to buy a piece of hot lamp pizza.' It was just so pathetic. You know, ever since his dog died ..."
I did know. "What time did you sit down for Thanksgiving dinner?" I asked.
"Ours is always at 3 o'clock. Why?"
"Ours is always at 1. And Granby was there."
"You mean last Thanksgiving."
"No, he was there THIS Thanksgiving -- just before he went to your house, I guess. And he ate like a horse. I met him last week and asked about his holiday, same as you, and he said he'd probably just eat some Spam out of the can since the taco place wasn't going to be open on Thanksgiving. He told me Spam comes in different flavors now. He thinks one of them might be turkey."
"You're pulling my leg," Arnie said.
"No, I'm pulling out my phone. Hang on a second," I said, dialing. "Bill, it's Jim. Have you run into Granby Sweet recently? Really? No kidding. At your house on Thanksgiving. Let me guess, you eat around 6? Just a wild guess. Yeah, since the dog ... no, you're right, it would have been wrong for him to get Thanksgiving dinner from the sandwich machine at the interstate rest stop. You did the right thing. That's what Thanksgiving is all about, right? Yeah, you too."
"Well," said Arnie, "it's not as if he did anything wrong, really. He never said he wasn't invited anywhere else. But if he ate at your house, mine AND Bill's, where is he putting all that food?"
"I don't know. I had no idea he could be so creative, honestly."
"Yeah, I think better of him now. It's a great idea. I might try it this Christmas," said Arnie. "Why should Helen and I do all the cooking and cleaning and worrying, when we could just accept every invitation we get? People would probably even give us leftovers to take home."
Arnie was onto something. Granby was certainly having more fun being a guest than we were being the hosts. I can't tell you how many people asked me what we were doing for Thanksgiving this year. If only I'd said something about "hot lamp pizza" or "a can of Spam," we could have eaten at 10 or 12 different homes in a single day. And most of them within walking distance. Who wants to get in a car and spend half the holiday in a traffic jam?
Today, I'm practicing my sad face so I'll be ready when people start asking what we're doing for Christmas. And I'm rehearsing answers like, "Oh, nothing special; we'll probably just visit Muffin in the pet cemetery," or "We're going to splurge and eat TWO packs of ramen noodles!"
Better yet: "Oh, nothing much. We'll probably turn up the heat and watch the Yule Log on TV again, and hope one of the kids remembers to call this year."
Be careful. I'm getting too good at this.
Contact Jim Mullen at email@example.com