Since leaving the home of my family of birth, my Thanksgiving tradition has been to eschew tradition. Knowing that they are still up there, enjoying family and food and the warm, unforced comfort that only occurs among people who share genes, has made it impossible for me to consider attempts at A Traditional Thanksgiving to be anything but pointless and, frankly, too painful.
This year, already challenging in its own ways, I decided to leave the house altogether and take the children for Thanksgiving dim sum. Miss M loves few things more than steamed dumplings, and I felt confident that if Mr. Baby didn't enjoy his meal, he'd at least entertain anyone else in the vicinity with his cuteness. (I know that's what every parent taking their child out in public thinks, but seriously, have you seen my boy?)
To be on the safe side, though, I planned to go during a non-rush, which translated into a 3:30 dinner. Miss M asked if we were having lunch. When I said, "No, you had an egg sandwich for lunch, this is dinner," she replied, "Then why is it light out?" Not only light, but desolate. We walked into the restaurant and the only other people eating were the staff, gathered around a large circular table and clearly not expecting to have to interrupt their meal.
Our waitress - the only waitress we've ever had there - was a little less polite than usual. She rolled out the dim sum cart, and after I'd picked a few things, talked me into ordering an entree as well. But then she brought out more little plates of goodness and I immediately regretted the additional order.
Chinese pop music was blaring over the CNN feed of the terrorist attacks in India. Mr. Baby was transfixed by both. I managed to get Miss M to eat two scallop dumplings, a shrimp dumpling and one bite of a pork dumpling before she completely lost interest in the whole adventure. Mr. Baby ate about half a pork dumpling before trying to stage dive out of the high chair. The entree still hadn't arrived. I was already stuffed and trying to keep Mr. Baby from erasing the specials off the white board by the front door. I tried in vain to get Miss M to eat the bacon-wrapped shrimp or fried shrimp balls, both of which were salty, fatty goodness that any kid would have liked.
When my noodle plate finally arrived (hey, look, more shrimp!), I'd lost control of both kids. They were wandering the restaurant (still empty of other patrons) while I tried to force a few more bites of food into my mouth. I gave up on it pretty quickly, asking the waitress for a to-go box for food I never intend to eat again as well as the remaining dim sum. I had my debit card poised for action and we were all in our coats and standing table-side when she returned with my receipt. When we got back in the car, I checked the clock. Our Thanksgiving feast had been $40 and 42 minutes long.
Feeling that my Thanksgrinchiness needed to be cranked down a notch, I turned left instead of right and took the kids downtown for a sunset walk by the river. Getting M out of the house definitely improved both of our moods, and Mr. Baby was a tranquil companion despite the full diaper I mistakenly attributed to parking too close to a city garbage can. Tom Lee Park was busier than I've seen it outside of MusicFest, with families of all sizes, configurations and nationalities taking a post-dinner constitutional by the Mississippi. I would have walked all the way to Mud Island if the daylight and M's legs weren't both giving out. Hell, I would have walked to Louisiana.
But, alas, our unexpectedly holidayish moment had to end. We closed the evening at home, with popcorn, Charlie Brown, and Miss M informing me that, due to my refusal to get her a third helping of yogurt-covered pretzels, she wasn't so thankful for me after all.