Storytime with Sten – The Thanksgiving paradox


Sten’s Thanksgiving break allowed him to realize that he was the world’s now.  (Michael Levine-Clark/Flickr Creative Commons)

I came home for Thanksgiving, as many college students do, and tried to make sense of this strange week.

I’m to spend quality time with my family, but it’s a local tradition to head to the bar on Thanksgiving eve and see every 21-year-old (or older) kid who I went to high school with. I’m supposed to refine my grad school applications, but I have five final projects to work on for my classes. Thursday, I hang out with the extended family I haven’t seen in a year or longer and try to remember my love for them, as I haven’t had to think about that for a while, and of course even though you are one big happy family, you just like some members more than others. On Friday I try and remember a different, less-forced love with my friends I just couldn’t keep up with after high school graduation at a house party. But Saturday I’m back to school for the foreseeable future.

On Wednesday I post some stirring video denouncing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and defending the rights of Native Americans on my Facebook page. On Thursday I eat turkey, drink wine, drown in sweet potatoes and reminisce with family, none of whom know about #NoDAPL, all technically in celebration of an alliance between the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians in the early seventeenth century. President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. Just over two weeks ago the country we claim as home elected the KKK-backed Donald Trump to the presidency.

(More wine, please!)

The good eleven-year-old Catholic cousin of mine said Grace and implored us diners to “refrain from talking politics at the table.” This sentiment was well received, at first. I mean, conceptually, it was strong. But this is the same family whose Thanksgiving, when I had barely hit double digits, ended in an apple missing its human target and exploding against the dining room wall. The 25 relatives who gathered together from disparate parts of the United States were a politically polarized bunch.

It never got out of hand. The older Republicans were at one table, the younger moderates/liberals at another, and the youngest at a smaller table of their own. Well-played, Auntie.

If anything, the liberals commiserating over the results in the corner, quiet-like, was the worst it got. Otherwise, the 25 relatives gathered gabbed the usual about future plans, past experiences and newfound hobbies. We were mostly amazed that we had all made it into this one place given there are cousins in Singapore, Los Angeles, Florida, Boston, New York, Connecticut, in college, in comedy, in the upscale restaurant business, in teaching, in law and in the post office.

Friday night – after copping a Christmas tree with the fam and watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – fostered a collection of former high school students casually drinking and trying to remember what it was like when we didn’t have to worry about jobs, rent price ranges and Trump, when it was basketball, or soccer, or the debate team, or which teacher was the hottest. Back before we pretended to be grown folks. So we played the drinking games and cracked jokes by the bonfire and almost sequestered the stresses – except somewhere they continued to fester.

When Saturday morning came, after my mom had decorated the tree, we played Scrabble. Perhaps it felt like I was hers again. But after I’d said goodbye, to the dogs, my sister and my mom, and I got in the car with my clean laundry and my backpack, I was reminded, maybe by the music, or by the reckoning of grad school plans left nearly untouched, that I was the world’s now.

Sten Spinella is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at He tweets @SSpinella927.

Leave a Reply