[Originally published November 21, 2012.]

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Last night, Mom and I went to Thanksgiving dinner at a Vegan family’s house, which is kind of like going to Temple for Christmas. Mom said that Vegans are “people that don’t eat any meat or cheese or shave” and, since Mom doesn’t like to cook, she decided that we needed to go to our neighbor’s house for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving used to be my favorite holiday because Mom and Dad and I would drive up to Dad’s parents’ house and Dad and I would roll down the humongous hill in Grandpa’s backyard while Grandma cooked with Mom.

But when Dad left Mom to be in love with his hygienist, Mom told me that I was never allowed to speak to Dad’s parents again, which I thought was unfair because they were my grandparents and we have a separate relationship.

I also used to love Thanksgiving because of the food. Grandpa would make a huge turkey with gravy and stuffing and everyone would make a big deal about Grandpa carving the turkey like he had a special skill that the rest of us could never learn.

But our neighbors, the Vegans, don’t eat turkey or real gravy and they don’t put marshmallows on top of their sweet potatoes because they said that marshmallows come from horse feet, which I didn’t know and hope is a lie.

Not only do they not eat turkey, but the Vegans placed framed pictures of two turkeys on their Thanksgiving table with the turkeys’ names underneath, which were “Mable” and “Todd.” It was strange to see pictures of turkeys because no one ever really takes pictures of turkeys and it was even stranger to see that they had names because no one really names turkeys, especially with a name like “Todd,” which sounds like the name of a boy who asks the teacher for more homework.

All of the foods were labeled with little turkey-shaped signs and I remembered the names carefully so that I know to avoid them in future Thanksgivings. The main foods were “Lentil and Mushroom Loaf with Savory Potato Filling” and “Stuffed Maple Tofu” and the side foods were “Gluten Free(!) Spinach Roasted Fingerlings” and “King Oyster Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Herbs” (and without marshmallows.)

Reading the weird names of the foods, I suddenly missed Dad and I thought that maybe Mom did too even though she always says that she hates him. I think that, even if you hate someone, it’s easy to miss them on the holidays.

Before we were allowed to eat, we had to go around the room and say what we were thankful for. At Grandma and Grandpa’s house we would do the same thing but more as a joke. It would always be funny and sarcastic like Grandpa would say “I’m thankful Grandma didn’t burn the turkey like last year” and Grandma would say to Grandpa, “I’m thankful that you lost your teeth so that you’ll only be able to eat the sweet potatoes.”

But the Vegans said things that were sincere, like “Family” and “Togetherness,” and Mom rolled her eyes at me and I rolled them back at her and it made me feel good. I like it when Mom rolls her eyes with me because it’s like having a silent secret with someone.

The Vegan Mom said she was thankful for her “enlightened consciousness” and that it was important to “keep turkeys, like Todd and Mable, in our hearts on this dark holiday.”

She said that turkeys are “beautiful and brilliant creatures who like music and dancing,” which seemed kind of strange and probably not true. But then she described how the turkeys are killed and it made me feel really guilty and also nauseous. Before the turkeys are killed, she said, they are packed into tiny cages where they can’t even turn around and, in order to make sure that the turkeys don’t attack each other, they get their beaks and toes cut off with hot blades and then are boiled alive to get their feathers off. I pictured myself in a tight cage, not being able to turn around and then getting my toes cut off and being boiled alive. Picturing yourself in someone else’s life is called “Empathy,” which Mom says I have too much of.

I thought it was strange that the Vegan Mom described how turkeys were killed to a group of people who were about to eat tofu. It kind of felt like she was trying to sell me the shirt I was already wearing.

I don’t totally think the Vegan people are so weird. In a way, it is more weird to eat a bird. We would all think it was disgusting to go outside and kill a bird and tear its head off and put it in an oven and then stuff its body with croutons and celery, but for some reason, we think it’s normal to go to a supermarket and buy a turkey and cook it. I guess I’m being hypocritical by eating turkeys and I don’t really know what to think about this.

I think it’s really sad the way that animals are killed. But it’s also really sad that I used to have Thanksgiving with my Grandparents and now I’m not allowed to talk to them because Dad loves someone else. I guess that there are a lot of sad things in the world and sometimes eating turkey with the people you love makes you happy and maybe it would make the turkey happy to know that this was happening with its body. Probably not, but maybe.

If the turkey really liked music and dancing, maybe it would also like to know that I was rolling down Grandpa’s hill with Dad and then eating its body. Probably not, but maybe. Maybe some things are too difficult for me to understand right now. Probably not, but maybe. That’s why I’m giving the Vegan Thanksgiving 1000 out of 2000 stars.