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Jeanine Fritz

Thanksgiving is over and yet a 12-pound turkey is defrosting in my fridge between the hot sauce I don't remember buying and the beer leftover from softball season.

I'd intended to defrost it in a cooler — a stupid plan since I don't have one — so I'd chucked it in the sink. Twenty minutes later, I realized the sink leaks, and so the turkey returned to fridge-prison, swimming around in an orange, 5-gallon bucket I bought from Home Depot that reads, "Let's do this!" on one side.

The whole situation is cringe-worthy. Outside the bucket situation, it's after Thanksgiving, I'm not hosting a large dinner party, and I don't even really like turkey.

Jeanine Fritz
Jeanine Fritz

But as I strolled the aisles of Safeway alone the other evening, dodging weary middle-aged folks smiling blankly at hundreds of cereals — presumably thrilled to be free of houses bursting with shrieking children, opinionated in-laws, and the constant din of football games — I thought about how lucky I was. I'd just attended two Thanksgiving dinners with friends and then left, knowing I didn't have any of that racket back at my place. I had silence, full control of the remote and crab wontons a mere phone call away.

Suddenly, the family-sized shampoo and single toothbrush in my basket were joined by the turkey. (Easily one of the weirdest impulse buys I've made.)

I'm not an idiot. I know what this turkey is saying: You are free and you are alone. We're in the midst of the holidays, a time where folks often plunge into depressions, based on incremental movements they've made in the past year in regards to family — we're too far or too close to the ideals we've set for ourselves. Family, like football, is a game of inches.

Years ago, my brilliant, foul-mouthed therapist, a tiny Jewish woman obsessed with silver jewelry, cowboy boots and Buddhism, announced (like she would every year for the next decade we'd spend together) that she hated this time of year because it made her clients so miserable. It's a special kind of misery we place upon ourselves, a wholly unnecessary feeling of inadequacy and general ick towards our lots in life. She'd spend every November coaching us how to stave off the bullshit, defend our personal goal lines, make forward progress and leave the field feeling we'd done our best. And then she'd leave the country, returning in January to review the tapes.

I understood where she was coming from, but I like the holidays. I like the pointed reminder there are things to be thankful for all around us. I like the sparkling lights, the special foods, the parties. It's OK my home is modest, my family is far and I have a 12-pound turkey in an orange bucket; I am free and I am alone and that is OK. But I'm not immune to holiday blues and I know a lot of folks really suffer this time of year. And so to you I say this: Find something that makes you happy, be it a night out with friends, or a Sunday afternoon in with a 12-pound turkey. And if that doesn't work, the holidays are over in a month.