Thanksgiving is not all about happy times. Sometimes misery is just part of the celebration.
It happened three years ago and the memory of it has never escaped me. Not the flying bottle of Cabernet, the stomped-on turkey leg, the socialite’s tears, nor our host frantically pretending nothing askew was going on as she watched her Thanksgiving dinner go to hell and back.
Thanksgiving for most of us means getting together with close family and friends. However, that may become an exhausting challenge to fulfill when one’s family is way out of town, on the other side of the world, and one’s close friends are also out of town. This presents the awkward problem of how one actually celebrates Thanksgiving, which is about people coming together and embracing the festive season, giving thanks to all that the universe has offered us.
The evening before, I took to Facebook to find one of my friends posting that they were hosting a Thanksgiving dinner and that all were welcome.
Piqued and enticed, I shot back a Facebook message. “Just come with a bottle of red,” said my friend David, an aspiring filmmaker.
“Gemma will be cooking a feast, a big feast, and she just asks you bring a good bottle of red.”
Having acquired myself a handsome bottle of Cab, I turned up to a nondescript apartment in Brooklyn where I was greeted by the succulent aromas of homemade food, the well thought-out placement of dinner mats, wine glasses, water glasses and the giddy expression of our host, Gemma.
David grabbed me and started shaking my hand, expressing in his heavy French accent what a joy it was for me to turn up.
“You know I wanted to experiment, to see who would come to the dinner. I just feel we have to take a chance in NYC. You understand what I mean?”
I stood there surveying the room, my eyes on a young man who was fastidiously holding onto his bottle of red and wearing makeup with a bright red tie.
“Christopher, meet Aaron. He is a gay socialite.”
I half expected Aaron to apologize or laugh back at the ridiculousness of the introduction, but instead he rose, firmly shook my hand whilst haughtily regarding my shabby appearance.
By now Gemma was making us all wear party hats and demanding we all help her blow up balloons.
Guests, some that I recognized from going out in the scene and some that I casually regarded with intrigue, began to arrive.
One guest asked, “You don’t think what you do is sleazy in some way? Tabloid journalists always write mean things and I just think it’s better if we only had positive things to say in the world.”
I forced a smile and hid behind one of the 12 guests who by now were slowly congregating around the dinner table as Gemma’s canapes were making the rounds.
The going whisper was that she was contending with a messy divorce.
Things by then were proceeding as best as things could, Aaron had for some reason declined to share his bottle of red wine and kept flipping his blond bob ever so conspicuously, David was running back and forth to Gemma’s side tending to the delivery of the food, and by now the guests were beginning to soften up and own the moment. Which came as a welcome relief.
Yet that soon all changed rather swiftly when the door bell rang and in the doorway stood iconic artist du jour Bernd, who was wearing his dapper white rayon suit along with a gangly brunette with fierce lipsticks and a taut outfit mercilessly exposing her gym bunny physique.
They were greeted and sat down and without understanding why, the brunette started to walk around the table whispering in everyone’s ear. The more she whispered the more I wondered who she was. I knew her from somewhere, but I just couldn’t remember where.
It wasn’t long before she had devoured three glasses back to back that she started crying, grabbed a leg of turkey and threw it at me.
“I hate your guts!” she started screaming.
I sat there stupefied until it suddenly occurred to me why she hated my guts.
A little while ago, I had attended a society fete where I went to write about the brunette dousing a fellow guest with Champagne, an ex-boyfriend of hers.
At this moment the brunette started crying hysterically, the red bottle of wine that I brought spilled all over the table and poor Gemma watched in astonishment as her intimate Thanksgiving dinner party imploded.
Now Aaron was giving me a dirty look, David the Frenchman was maniacally looking for paper towels and the young brunette pointed her finger at me.
“You are the scum of the universe.”
If one could imagine a slow-motion camera capturing the above scene, one would capture the following visage: half the table on the right splattered with red wine, the other half watching on with shock horror, Gemma’s pet dog yelping with trepidation, a slinky pale brunette shaking uncontrollably and a large turkey leg being trampled upon by skidding chairs.
Without thinking too much, I got up and approached the young brunette and simply told her that I never thought anything untoward her, and if she would accept my conciliation to embrace we could put it all behind us.
The hug to my surprise came, but then everyone around the table started hugging each other. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Here we were, strangers in NYC looking for a moment of respite, a moment of sanity, a moment to understand the madness of life all suddenly unequivocally hugging each other.
I stayed until the very end helping Gemma clean up the mess and asking her to show me how she exactly had gone about cooking the meal she had presented us. I think that meant the world to her. Being appreciated. I think that’s what she really wanted. I think deep down that’s what we all want. To just be acknowledged and admired. To be thanked for being the brave New Yorker that we all are required to be in a city that brings so many souls, entities and energies under one roof.
After left later that evening, I casually walked by Bernd’s Oldsmobile convertible, which the brunette was giddily trying to enter. He must have looked at me for a second, winking, shrugging, laughing, as the young brunette managed to nonchalantly take off her stiletto heels and bang them against his car.