My third Thanksgiving in Japan and I couldn’t be happier! I’m not even kidding! Really!! Honest to God!! HAPPY!!! Absolutely positively elated and filled with joy!!! OK, I’m full of shit.

Thanksgiving has never been one of my favorite holidays unlike say Halloween or my birthday. And it’s not just because I’m a vegetarian. I used to eat meat so I know what a turkey tastes like except that while most people savor the turkey and comment on its juiciness mid chew, I used to chew my bird quickly and gulp it down so that I wouldn’t have to think about what it was I was eating.

Like most holidays, my parents weren’t really big on celebrating Thanksgiving when I was a kid. My mom doesn’t like to cook and hates poultry of any kind. You get her started on the topic and you can’t shut her up. “They’re the dirtiest animals you can imagine. Have you ever seen how they keep them in cages? Filthy, just filthy. It makes me sick just thinking about it.” All this while she’s eating beef fajitas.

So for Thanksgiving “dinner” my parents would take me and my sister to the Hilton or the Sheraton for the buffet lunch. While traditional Mexican families ate turkey and frijoles with their extended family at home, we dined on defrosted dinner rolls and soggy “twice mashed” potatoes at a hotel. My dad would say something about how corrupt and morally bankrupt Democrats were while my mom would cut my sister’s turkey and pretend to listen. I’d look around and wonder what brought the other families dining in the restaurant to this shameful place. Sure, it all looked nice with the elaborate spread, big bay windows and that wetback with the faux chef’s hat on top of his head pouring the tea, but weren’t we supposed to be doing this at home with my cousins?

The afternoon before Thanksgiving break, the teacher would always ask us what we had planned for the holiday. All the white kids told stories of their grandmother’s lake house or of an upcoming feast at some cousin’s ranch miles away from town. I searched the painted faces of the few brown kids in my class. Their smiles said “me too” but I had a feeling I might be seeing some of them at the buffet line.

Tomorrow, my sister is driving her roommate over to my parent’s house to celebrate Thanksgiving. My mom is making a turkey breast because, “Why do we need the whole bird? Your dad doesn’t know how to cut the damn thing anyway. And who eats dark meat?”

Today, my partner and I will be celebrating Thanksgiving dinner at a couple friend’s apartment. She’s a great cook. He is a master Wii player. They have invited many of our shared friends. I am indeed happy and thankful.