I Want a Valium for Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown.

©1973 United Feature Syndicate Inc.

©1973 United Feature Syndicate Inc.

My job can be quite stressful. It can therefore keep me away from blogging for lengthy periods of time, especially when there are deadlines right before a long holiday weekend. Like this week!

When at last this long-but-short week came to an end, the relief was palpable. I could finally, completely, head-to-toe relax, even if all that meant was taking a breather between work and beginning to prepare for Thanksgiving and what I’d be contributing to our family meal this year.

I pride myself on my pumpkin pies. Sure, they’re like, the easiest pie to make out of All The Pies, but it’s one of the few–literally a few–things I actually take pleasure in making, and I have my little tricks to make them especially delicious. Furthermore, once I know how to perfect something to my own unique standards, it’s kind of compulsive for me to have to make it. Even if I weren’t going to bring it to a family meal, I wouldn’t be able to not make it. It’s my little Billy Bob Thornton thing.

What I love about this particular time of year is that the holiday season gets into full swing. Stores are an explosion of green and red, and homes and storefronts alike are decked out in lights, garlands, and wreaths. The dude and I have established a couple of our own holiday traditions, including getting a Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving and getting out all of the Christmas tchotchkes. (“Christmas tchotchkes” just might be an oxymoron, but I’m going with it, anyway.) There really is something special about this time of year that I cherish dearly.

To go with that special holiday feeling is the underlying stress of getting everything done in time for family gatherings, and holiday parties, and gift exchanges, and shipping presents off in time to be opened on Christmas Day, and blowing your wad on stuff you don’t need staying on budget. But we also have a particular salve for that stress: the holiday specials. Do a cursory search for “Christmas” on Netflix or your cable guide and there are no fewer than several hundred airings of all different specials and movies for an entire month. Heck, we’ve already seen Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and it’s not even December yet!

As you may know, we are huge Charlie Brown/Peanuts fans. These holiday specials in particular hold a special place in our hearts, along with millions of others’, I’m sure.

HOWEVER: although I am well aware that it is impossible to freeze children’s voices so they can produce dozens of holiday specials just for the sake of continuity, there are only a few of the Charlie Brown holiday specials I can tolerate aside from the original and sacred A Charlie Brown Christmas. The producers of that special did way too good of a job with casting and have subsequently ruined me for most of the other specials. There is one in particular I can not stomach, and it is A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.

First things first: the only voices that sound genuine to the characters, in this blogger’s opinion, are Marcie’s and Peppermint Patty’s. Patty’s tomboy gruffness is dead on and Marcie’s sweet squeaks are endearing. All of the other main characters sound totally off, rendering them all L’Etranger. My suspension of disbelief just ain’t happening.

Secondly, Charlie’s extremely low self-esteem notwithstanding (and it really is quite heartbreaking, between his depression about holidays in general, being tricked by Lucy once again on kicking the football, and being steamrolled by Patty et al. as they invite themselves over for dinner), my squeamishness is a direct result of Peppermint Patty’s overbearing personality. Charlie is trying to rev himself up for a holiday at his grandmother’s, when suddenly Patty and the Gang inform him that they’re about to ascend his threshold for a full-on Thanksgiving meal, thank you very much.

We see Snoopy and Woodstock in the kitchen and Snoopy is making buttered toast and popcorn like a pro. One burned dog ear later, he’s got dinner on the (ping pong) table.

Sweet Snoopy happily serves up his homemade toast, pretzels, jelly beans, and popcorn. There are even pink parfaits on the table. A little carb-heavy, sure. But it’s the holiday season, after all. Their ten-year-old metabolisms can probably handle it.

©1973 United Feature Syndicate Inc.

©1973 United Feature Syndicate Inc.

But instead of feeling happy and grateful to be with friends (heck, let’s call a spade a spade–they’re acquaintances at best), Patty goes on a belittling rampage about the food, shredding any pride Charlie may have had in providing her with a meal. Linus’s gracious speech fell on deaf ears, apparently. Thankfully Patty had brought her subordinate BFF Marcie with her, who becomes the voice of reason, talks Patty down from her rage high, and gets her to apologize. That’s a solid friend right there.

The whole scene gives me disgusted knots in my stomach, quite frankly, to the point where between it and the not-so-great voice casting, I have a high aversion to the special, so much so that it wouldn’t bother me if that particular DVD of the Peanuts Holiday Collection somehow got lost.

In short, this storyline makes me want to reach for a glass of wine or a Valium. It does not embody thankfulness or the spirit of Thanksgiving. To me, the kids’ meal that Snoopy and Charlie and Linus prepared IS what the holiday is all about: gathering with your friends/loved ones and enjoying what you have before you.

Other than watching Snoopy’s antics with Woodstock, I think the best part of the special is when all the kids are singing Over the River and Through the Woods in their off-key and inharmonious way. Also because it’s at the end of this not-so-well-done program. I’m sorry, Chuck. I love ya, but they can’t all be winners.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope your feast is belittling-free and full of delicious eats, even and especially if they’re toast and popcorn.

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Sorry I’m A Safe Driver, and: I Hate Minivans

I have a bone to pick with minivan drivers. What is the deal? You either drive way too fast or way too slow. Can’t you just drive normally? I can’t help but feel like some of the rude driving I’ve seen happen with these vehicles is because there is pent up rage from owning one of these ugly things. I’m in the minority in that I am a woman who has no desire whatsoever to have one. My male counterpart couldn’t want one more, inexplicably.

I can’t even count how many times I’ve been on road trips and the cars that are going 85 and being obnoxious are minivans (usually male drivers). I smiled the other day when I was coming to an intersection and saw that a minivan had been pulled over, presumably for speeding or having just run the light. I couldn’t help but feel vindicated for what had transpired earlier that same day. Shall I relay the story?

So that same morning, as I was sitting in the left turn lane at a busy intersection – and I was the first car in the turn lane, mind you – there was no chance for me to turn left against the regular green light, so I knew I was going to have to sit through another cycle before I got the arrow. Right as the light was about to turn, a minivan drives around me from being in the turn lane and proceeded to go out into the middle of the intersection, turning left against the red light. Thank God s/he had the turn signal on or it would have been REALLY obnoxious.

You can bet your sweet bippy I honked at this foul offender, whilst also spewing some choice epithets after him/her. (I’m assuming it was a man but who’s really to say.) Pretty much, this was my face:

When I told my boyfriend the same story in a really appalled tone, he took the opportunity (after agreeing that it had been a dick move) to say, “But you know, if you’d been pulled out into the intersection, he wouldn’t have done that.”

What ensued after this statement was a huge debate about whether or not it’s illegal and/or courteous to pull out mid-intersection to turn left. This must be a “Champaign thing.” Where I grew up in St. Louis, there are very few lights which do not have green arrows, so we know exactly when we can turn. Having to sit at a busy intersection with no green arrow is not only infuriating, but basically encourages this crappy driver etiquette. And this was a light where we had a green arrow! It only lights every other cycle for some odd reason, though. Being rush hour traffic, I really had no opportunity to turn.

Anyway, although we are both good drivers, the boyfriend and I disagree on several driving habits, this being the main one. Apparently I’m the jerk for not pulling all the way out and waiting for the light to turn, even if it’s when the light has turned red and I just have to get out of the way; whereas I can’t help but feel like an a-hole if I pull that stunt. It happens so often here and yet, I still hate doing it. I feel like I’m basically running a red light when I do this. Kevin insists it is perfectly legal. I have not been swayed. Our debate escalated to the point where, in a very frustrated moment I blurted out, “Sorry I’m a safe driver!”

You just never know who is going to do what when crossing an intersection and I don’t like sitting in the middle of the action when I can sit behind my safe little white line that was designated for this purpose. Am I right or am I right or am I right?

Okay, back to my original diatribe about minivans. I find them ugly, bulbous, and too similar looking. They’re everywhere. Plus, I don’t want to turn into Shitty Minivan Driver. I understand that if one has lots of children, these are probably Dream Modes of Transportation. Since I have zero children, this definitely accounts for the strong bias. I just don’t understand what a minivan has that say, a nice-looking SUV or crossover doesn’t have. I’d really like to know. Being the aesthetic person that I am, it’s more of a looks thing than it is a stereotype thing, but the stereotype does play into my dislike. I also know that there are folks out there who SWEAR by minivans and would never drive anything else. I’d like to hear from you!

For whatever reasons that Kevin adores minivans – all of them practical, I assure you – we have actually gotten into a heated debate about why we may or may not purchase one in our future solidified life together. I am adamantly opposed (has that been made clear?) and he is insistent on changing my mind. He finds them to be the pinnacle purchase in adulthood, I think. Strangely enough, Kevin’s best friend is also the one in his relationship who prefers to have a minivan and his wife is the one that has the same knee-jerk reaction I do: Yick! So they have that to bond over, which is cute and funny.

If anyone out there can shed some light on the intersection debate or tell me all the merits of owning a minivan, I’d love the feedback! I can’t fathom changing my mind about ever wanting to own a minivan but never say never, right? I think Justin Bieber never says never. Or he just says, “Never Say Never.” One of those.

In the meantime, I will bask in the glory of sedan ownership.

**Edit March 2017** — a couple of weeks ago, I was at an extremely busy intersection during the 5 o’clock rush home. I needed to turn left across two oncoming lanes of traffic, and the intersection is quite wide. It’s easy to underestimate how much time it takes to cross those lanes with two lanes of traffic barreling down on you. Because of the heavy traffic, I stayed behind my little white line at the light. A woman raced up behind me and, when she realized I wasn’t going to move out into traffic, shook her head at me. She was older, perhaps in her 50s or 60s. I saw her grimace and shake her head in my rearview mirror. I decided to fight her crankiness with silliness and I happily waved at her. She saw me waving and lightened up (slightly) and half-heartedly waved back at me. (I like to think that she felt a little embarrassed, perhaps thinking I knew her, and she is only comfortable doing that to strangers instead of people she knows.) The light went red and we sat through another cycle until I was able to safely cross with a green arrow. My husband still asserts that he sided with the lady behind me but I like to think that being cautious saved myself and possibly the woman behind me from making a poor driving decision and getting into an accident. The “Sliding Doors” theory, if you will.