How To Make Thanksgiving For One When You're Stranded by the StormS

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and the U.S. is barreling down on it like a salt-stained maroon Subaru Forester hydroplaning uncontrollably toward a utility pole on one of our nation's many fine turnpikes. That's because the country is currently being savagely walloped by what one can only assume are Storms of Thankfulness, born when citizens' prayers and glad tidings collided on their way to heaven with a low pressure system moving north off the Gulf and crystallized, thundering back down to earth in the form of deadly winter precipitation.

The storm, which is already being blamed for several deaths in the West and Midwest, will lurch up the East Coast Tuesday through Wednesday, at which point it will finally become real instead of being politely dismissed as some "L.A. craze." Across the region, local newscasters, the Weather Channel, and town lunatics are all in a panic, warning travelers of delays, cancellations, and traffic as far as the eye can see. Adding to the alarm is the strongly held cultural belief that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year. The fact that this is untrue—according to AAA, the busiest travel days of the year are spread out over a smattering of summer weekends—does not make it feel any less true.

Of course, even if Wednesday is not the end all, be all, busiest day to set off in your apple cart for Chattanooga, travel that day will be messy and complicated. Given the numbers, a few of you reading this will almost certainly be in car accidents while traveling for Thanksgiving, though hopefully not you specifically. Many more of you will find yourselves locked in cramped cars for hours on end, passing the time by playing the beloved travel guessing game "What Are You Sighing About?" wherein one passenger in the car sighs and the vehicle's driver must try to deduce why by angrily repeating "What are you sighing about?" over and over again.

But maybe some of you, by necessity or by choice, will abandon your plans for Thanksgiving travel altogether and find yourself home alone at the last minute.

Here's how to handle a Thanksgiving in solitude.

Don't Watch the Parade

  • The first thing you should do is skip the first thing you were going to do, which is watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Since 1924, Macy's, a popular television commercial manufacturer, has annually orchestrated a gay parade of giant rubber (today: polyurethane fabric) balloons, which float over Manhattan, menacing yet inert (as if stupefied) in order to frighten away the old, dark gods. This event takes place at the vacation equivalent of dawn, which is 9 a.m. If you get up to watch it, all you are doing is providing yourself with more empty, lonely hours that you will have to fill with something other than suicide. Instead, you should remain unconscious for as long as possible. (Also, there's a chance the balloons won't even get to fly this year due to wind.)

Make a Craft, Specifically: Pom poms

  • Because none but the dead can sleep forever, eventually you will have to wake up and leave your bedroom, lest it start to acquire that gamey "human" smell. Use this bleak grey window between the darknesses to make a craft, specifically: pom poms.

    Making a craft, or "crafting," is a fun way (or, anyway, one way) to eat up a lot of your day. When you make a craft, essentially what you are doing is taking a couple things and turning them into less things through judicious combining. A popular craft on the popular craft website Pinterest is pom poms (that is: circular whatsits of various sizes and textures), which people make out of all manner of materials for no apparent reason other than to have them. A simple search will turn up DIY instructions for pom poms, for itty bitty pom poms, for pom poms, for nursery pom poms, and for pom poms. Spend a couple hours making pom poms. Put them anywhere.

Eat Like a Starving Pilgrim

  • It's important to remember that the Plymouth colonists didn't eat the specific set of weird foods they ate at that first harvest celebration because those were the foods you're supposed to eat on Thanksgiving. They made a feast out of whatever they had around (Clams! Onions! A great big bird!) because that was what they already had around. Apply the same principle to your Thanksgiving for in solitude. If the pilgrims ate turkey, mussels, and Indian corn, maybe you eat jerky, a freezer-burned Popsicle, and leftover Indian takeout. Maybe you have "breakfast for dinner," a lighthearted treat sure to inject a little whimsy into even the blackest of times.

Celebrate Hanukkah

  • Maybe you're Jewish. It's not illegal! This year, Thanksgiving falls on the second night of the Festival of Lights; the "Kujichagulia" night of Hanukkah, if you will. Celebrate with a small light festival in your bathroom.

Get Started on Christmas

  • Because this year's observance falls so late, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas will run six days shorter than usual, leaving Americans with only 27 shopping days till Xmas instead of the usual 99. By the time many families have sat down to tuck into their meals, Christmas will already be over. Take advantage of your unexpected free time and complete lack of ties (legal, emotional, etc.) to any other human to make moves on your shopping list for next year's Christmas on Black Friday. This year Black Friday falls on Thursday at shoppes like Target, Old Navy, and Dollar General. The craft store Michael's will also be open on Thursday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., which is great news for you since you are giving everyone a stocking full of pom poms for Christmas. Use this time to purchase supplies (yarn, tissue paper, coffee filters) to make more pom poms.

Above all, remember that no matter how sad and bad your lonely Thanksgiving is, it will almost certainly be happier and easier than the first one, which was celebrated by a bunch of freezing people, many of whose friends and family members had recently died. Forget iPads. They didn't event have iPod Touches. (Only second generation iPod classics with 10 GB of storage space.) Any suffering will only make your holiday more authentic, and probably still more bearable than being stuck in traffic with your family in sight of the Valley Forge exit but not within walking distance of the rest stop.

[Image by Jim Cooke]