An excerpt from Short Front Legs: Observations of the Human Species from a Tired Mother.
Celebrating holidays brings out the most bizarre behavior of even the most level-headed humans
By Brenda Fleming
Celebrating holidays brings out the most bizarre behavior of even the most level-headed humans. I understand many holidays are rooted in religion or culture, and families want to honor their roots and beliefs.
But, over the years, human holidays have gone from celebrating a harvest or a special story, and have evolved to some pretty odd activities that we label as “tradition.”
Six-foot-tall bunnies breaking into our houses, imagery of a bloody execution, and painting chicken eggs? Kid, that odd combination is just how we celebrate Easter!
Accepting treats from strangers and using knives to carve faces into squashes—honey, that’s just Halloween!
And, what’s weird about setting off explosives five hundred feet in the air to celebrate our country’s independence?
I redacted the part of this book that talks too much about Christmas because, again, I conform to society and I refuse to publicly admit or deny anything about Santa’s existence. But that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize the weird combination of the epitome of holidays: a tree in the house, a baby born outside, flying reindeer, presents in socks, wrapping our houses in tiny electrical lights, and your own mother insisting you sit on the lap of a stranger? Hell yeah! That’s what Christmas is all about!
How are we supposed to teach our children to make good choices on their own when—under the guise of “holiday”—we make exceptions to absurd behaviors that contradict everyday living?
Let’s talk about Thanksgiving, shall we? We celebrate how grateful we are by indulging in an eight thousand calorie dinner, and then, we top it off with four pieces of pie.*
An illustration from Short Front Legs: Observations of the Human Species from a Tired Mother.
*Note from the editors’ desk: And if you’re truly paralyzed by how much you ate, you sit and watch men in tights butt their heads together and throw each other on the ground.
This past Thanksgiving, we decided to go “easy” on ourselves, and make dinner for just the five of us.
“Why don’t we just keep it simple, and do the essentials?” I asked my husband when discussing our menu. “Turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes. And pumpkin pie. And jello, of course—it’s tradition.”
“Sure! But we also need stuffing. And rolls. And gravy, and green beans! And pecan pie.” I nodded my head in agreement.
“Oh, and cranberry sauce!” As the list got longer, I tried to think where we could possibly find room for negotiation: “Maybe instead of a full turkey, we do a cornichon.”
“A cornish hen? A cornichon is a small pickle,” my husband replied.
And with that, we decided a full turkey was also, without a doubt, a necessity.
I helped the kids make pie early in the week, but on the actual Thanksgiving day, my only task in the kitchen was to open the can of cranberry sauce—which I promptly delegated to my middle child.
I am not sure what happened to my time that day—maybe it was the 21 people who “just stopped by” or the neurotic cleaning—but somehow I was frantically busy until my husband took the last dish out of the oven.
Eating turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.
Claiming a pumpkin to carve.
Regardless, I found myself apologizing for lack of participation in the actual cooking.
“Mom, if you hadn’t opened the can of cranberry we could have all gone rogue and eaten each other.” My middle child is so great at making people feel better.
Thanks, dear, for saying that, but also for being the one who actually opened the can of cranberry sauce.
But I one-hundred percent agree: when it comes to what’s on the Thanksgiving table, not having cranberry sauce could have resulted in cannibalistic chaos—this surely has to be the explanation for our insistence on creating absolutely perfect holidays.
Or, maybe what we eat and how clean our house doesn’t matter.
Maybe gratitude would be better celebrated by splitting a small pickle five ways.
Brenda Fleming is the author and illustrator of “Short Front Legs: Observations of the Human Species from a Tired Mother.” This coming-of-(middle!)-age story asks why evolution favors us humans–especially with all the unnecessary human-things we do: from crazy ambition, insisting on perfect holidays, to owning pets and crazy beauty standards. Filled with comics and anecdotes, this lighthearted book looks at those born, bred, and buttered in today’s society: typical homosapiens trying to let go of their own childhoods while becoming parents themselves.
Brenda is the mother of three kids, and loves all things New Mexico–from hiking, mountain biking, snowboarding and camping. Brenda Fleming sells New-Mexico themed T-shirts and wildlife/landscape stickers, and is the illustrator of the popular children’s book, Goodnight, Los Alamos that won Best Picture Book from the Arizona and New Mexico book awards.