julia child, mastering the art of french cooking, julie powell, french cuisine

The Most Pitiful Thanksgiving Ever

No, this isn’t some holiday special brought to you by Charles Shulz (although if it were, I’d request that my part be played by The Little Red-Haired Girl. She’s so cute!). No, no – this is a true story of a Thanksgiving from my college years, also entitled “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”.

My junior year in college, I was a resident assistant in my girls’ dorm with a staff of 10 awesome young women. A week before school began each semester, we would arrive early to get everything set up for the girls to move in. During that time, we’d take some training classes, spend some time bonding with our staff, and we’d also plan our work schedule for the year.

It was a given that at some point, one of us would have to work in the building during a holiday, and we used a “seniority rules” policy of passing around a calendar and letting people choose the holiday they’d be willing to work. As a junior, I was one of the first staff members to choose, and I realized that several of our RA’s were from out of town. My family lived just an hour away, so I felt it was only fair for me to take one of the bigger holidays – so I took Thanksgiving. How bad could it be? Not only could I see my family any time, I had grand visions of hosting a dinner in the building for any residents in the building who couldn’t make it home. This could actually be really fun!

My family had made plans to attend a family reunion that day, but we agreed they’d stop by on their way home and bring me some leftovers and we would have our own little Thanksgiving in my dorm room. No problem – my resident dinner would be done by then.

Only, when Thanksgiving rolled around, there were no residents in the building. Anybody who hadn’t been able to travel over the holiday had gone to friends’ houses – the dorm was a virtual ghost town. Just me and the crickets. Our hall director had also chosen to stay, but her family came from out of state to stay with her in her suite – and it wasn’t until I could smell the turkey baking in her kitchen that I began to feel a little homesick.

So I busied myself by cleaning my room, dusting and vacuuming – and then the old dorm vacuum burnt out and filled my room with the smell of melted rubber. Great. That would be a nice ambiance for our Thanksgiving meal.

I watched TV to pass the time, and then my dad called from Georgia. I could hear lots of family there, laughing and having a great time. “We’re having home-made pie!” my dad exclaimed, then said, “Here, let me pass the phone around!” I got to talk to everyone, which actually just made me really sad, and when we hung up the phone, I burst into tears. Who wants to spend Thanksgiving alone??

I kept thinking about the turkey leftovers my mom would be bringing with her, and how we could still have a nice Thanksgiving meal out in the dorm lobby at the study tables. And when she finally arrived, I was so glad to see her, carrying a stack of tupperware containers.

Don't be fooled! This isn't the real deal!

We spread everything out on the table, and when I uncovered the plate, she said, “Um…I have to warn you. At the reunion, they didn’t have regular turkey. They had….tofu turkey.”

So that’s the story of Thanksgiving my junior year in college. Stuck in a dorm with tofu turkey. But you know something? It sure made me thankful for all the things I had, and all the people in my life that loved me.

(In case you were wondering, I didn’t sign up for the Thanksgiving duty the following year.)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

– Jessica

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