As much as we like chatting about the fruitful family traditions of the holidays, there can be a downside to setting precedents requiring rigid follow-ups year after year after year. I’m speaking for myself, of course. Most years, I’m up for the holidays, but occasionally, exhaustion, depression and lassitude creep up like a fog of skunk oil. I become my true introverted self and wish for a cave where I might spend the holidays alone with a single candle and a Snicker’s bar. This state of mind happened one Thanksgiving when I was in my late forties. Three out of four sons were at home; one was on a mission in Bullfrog, Arizona. I had told my parents that we would not be attending the grand family fest: all the numerous loved ones squashed into a bungalow like potato bugs under a rock. I told you I was depressed. We would have our own private Thanksgiving at home. Did we have to do the big turkey thing and the stuffing thing and the mashed potato thing? I whined my anguish to Tom, my husband. Did we have to look like a Norman Rockwell painting, oozing cheer and patriotic, robust health? Did we have to do the traditional hoopla? “I just want to make a really good chiffon pumpkin pie,” I said. “I don’t care about the rest.” “We can do whatever we want,” he said. I married well. We decided on a turkey breast, stove-top stuffing, mashed potatoes made from flakes. There must have been a salad of some sort. It was the kind of meal one might get in a junior high school cafeteria in a neighborhood where the sun never shines. Then, having given ourselves permission to have such a pathetic Thanksgiving meal, we had the best idea ever: we’d take the boys to Blockbuster the day before Thanksgiving and everyone in the family would choose a film. Over the next three days, we’d all watch everyone else’s film. No matter what. We’d have a Thanksgiving Film Fest. Our boys loved the idea. We piled into the car and went to Blockbuster. These are the films we chose: 1) Tom: Der Letzte Mann, a German expressionist film (silent) from 1924. 2) Louise: Raintree County , a civil war drama. 3) Jonathan: Pet Sematary, a Stephen King horror film. 4) Charles: Lean on Me, in which the Morgan Freeman character saves his inner-city high school. 5) Sam: NFL Highlights. If Edmund had not been celebrating Thanksgiving in a trailer court in Bullfrog City, he would most certainly have chosen Top Gun, with Tom Cruise, which was his favorite film of the decade. And we could not have resisted watching it yet again, to see if Goose really does die. The agony! We began with NFL Highlights early in the evening. Tom and the boys sat in the family room watching, and I stood behind the adjoining kitchen counter rolling out pie dough made with lard, the one and only true recipe for pie dough. The NFL Highlights included some goofy plays made along the way. We were entertained. Lean on Me followed. I beat the egg whites. Of all the movies chosen, this was the most family appropriate. I finished the pumpkin pie and sat with them following the tense negotiations of the Eastside High Principal in Patterson New Jersey to upgrade his falling down high school. He did it, and we felt good, and went to bed. The next morning, realizing that no one wanted to watch Rain Tree County, but me, I began it in mid morning. The boys wandered in and out standing long enough to see that it was a period piece with Elizabeth Taylor speaking with a southern accent; they fled quickly to another part of the house. Passive desertedness. Who could blame them? After an hour, even I deserted the movie. It was so fifties, so old fashioned. It was insipid. We ate dinner in the dining room on china. How hard is that? I’m sure there were flowers. I’m better with flowers than with food. No one complained. I doubt anyone noticed. The chiffon pumpkin pie should have won a blue ribbon. Then came the piece de resistance, Jonathan’s choice: Pet Sematary. This may have been my first experience with a Stephen King movie. It begins innocently enough, with the pleasant and young Creer family, who move into a house in Ludlow, Maine on a large property but on busy highway. A neighbor shows them the Pet sematary [sic] at the back edge of the property and warns them to be careful with it. Careful, how? We don’t know. If there are semis speeding in front of the house in a movie, you know there’s going to be trouble. It begins with the family cat getting run over. Everyone is sad about this cat. What better thing to do than to bury it in the pet sematary, which is what they do with full rites and dignity. Poor, poor kitty cat. A few days later, the cat reappears. The same cat, their pet, reappears. Magic! Only this cat’s eyes shine maniacally red occasionally. I’ve never been a cat person myself, but I’m pretty sure that cats’eyes do not glow red when they are unhappy with something. This cat swipes and hurts people. Frankly, I don’t remember what happens to the cat. But it’s not a good sign of things to come. Of course, then the cute, blonde curly-haired toddler is hit by a semi, and guess what? The dad seeing that the cat came back from the dead, thinks that the baby also ought to be buried in the pet sematary, because who knows? So that’s what happens and this baby boy does come back from the dead and in the rest of the movie, he slashes his family to death in cunning and surprising ways. I think his eyes turn red too when he’s about to lose it, as they say. It had our full attention. We grasped each other as we watched. Then my parents show up to say hello. Our family is near the end of the movie where blood is flying and limbs are flailing and we say, “Sit down; we have to see the end of this.” My parents pull up chairs. “What is this?” my father asks. “Pet Sematary,” we yell. “Isn’t it great?” “Goodness,” says my mother. I can’t remember who dies. Someone leaves town, but I don’t remember if the toddler baby can travel. Sam, who was ten, had nightmares for days. I write Edmund about poor Sam’s nightmares. He writes back: “How could he not have nightmares? You showed a ten-year old Pet Sematary? What were you thinking?” I don’t know what we were thinking, but every one of our boys remembers this as the best Thanksgiving ever. Even Sam, once the nightmares ended. No one, not even Tom, watched the silent, German film he’d chosen.