For the Birds

Written by Matthew Dicks
Illustrated by Sean Wang
 
Memories…
It’s Thanksgiving Day. I’m bundled in one of those winter coats that my friends and I wore as armor during our childhood BB gun wars. Thick. Bulky. Imposing.
I’m wearing mittens, hat, and scarf, too, but I’m still cold. It’s late November. Snow covers the ground. The wind is blowing. I’m shivering.
This is where normalcy comes to an end.
I’m standing on the side of a road amongst hundreds – perhaps thousands – of other people dressed almost exactly like me. Most are cheering. Shouting words of encouragement. Pumping fists into the air. It’s universal, enthusiastic mayhem.
I don’t do any of this. I stand stoically. I’m too damn cold.
These inexplicable enthusiasts are cheering on clusters of certifiable lunatics who are running down the street toward an arbitrary, irrelevant finish line. I worry about these runners. They occupy that frightening space between freezing-to-death because they are dreadfully underdressed for sub-freezing temperatures and overheating because they are ridiculously overdressed for running.
I’m witnessing a Turkey Trot. Or a Thanksgiving Day 5K. Or an Ugly Sweater Run. Whatever the name, it’s what most people call a race, even though there are only about six people trying to win. The rest are here because…
I have no clue.
On this finest of all holidays, a day set aside for football and gluttony, these morons have decided to run with scores of other morons down the city street … even though almost every other single day of the year is better for running.
I’m here because I have made the terrible mistake of dating a girl who belongs to one of those families who think this particular Thanksgiving Day tradition is a good idea. She and her family rise at the crack of dawn so the most disturbed members of the family can eat a hearty breakfast before venturing into the cold to join the rest of the lunatics at the starting line.
An hour later, we leave the house, though I can’t imagine why. It’s freezing outside. We don’t attend non-competitive foot races on the loveliest of days, so why would we do so today? Let the dummies run. We can have turkey ready for them if and when they return.
I’m so desperate to remain indoors that I suggest that we watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is only slightly better than watching hypothermic/hyperthermic attention seekers run on a day when I’m supposed to be giving thanks by watching football players smash into one another. Watching a parade on television is only slightly less ludicrous than watching fireworks on television.
Admittedly, I may be biased. When I was in high school, I marched in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with my high school band, so to watch it on TV is anticlimactic, to say the least. Watching enormous balloons reduced to the size of a television screen is ridiculous. Listening to television personalities banter about their banter is obscene. It’s depressing. Still, I make a play for the parade.
At least I’ll be warm.
“But you’ll love the race,” my girlfriend assures me. I don’t believe her, and hate her for thinking so. This is akin to the people who make a stew containing only foods you despise but assure you that “You’ll love it.” You never love it because that makes no sense. 
I won’t like this either. It’s cold, and watching people run is not my thing. It’s not anyone’s thing unless it’s Thanksgiving, and that makes no sense, either.
So here I stand, shivering. I’m offered hot chocolate. I take it, thinking hot chocolate doesn’t work as well as not being here.
I make a half-hearted effort to pretend I don’t hate this as much as I do. It’s one of those times when you despise something with every fiber of your being, but you’re surrounded by people who adore it. You can’t just declare your hatred. That never goes well. Instead, you offer a measured critique while trying to sound open-minded and amusing.
As it turns out, the day is not entirely a waste.
The race is stupid, and it takes me hours to warm up once we return home. My girlfriend’s mother records the parade after hearing how much I wanted to watch it, so when we finally make it back to the house, she surprises me with it. I sit there and pretend to think that the balloons are majestic and the banter is hilarious.
But as I watch, I come to a conclusion:
I can never marry a woman who thinks running on Thanksgiving Day is a good idea. I would prefer to marry a woman who hates puppies or thinks Bruce Springsteen is overrated. I’ll take a wife who drives under the speed limit before I’ll marry someone who wants to watch non-athletes run surprisingly slowly in the frigid cold on a major holiday.
I learn what I want and what I don’t want in a spouse that day. And for that, I give thanks.

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