In 1969, I was living in a big old frame house with 11 other adults, 4 children, two babies, and an assortment of dogs and cats. Instead of rent, we turned over our food stamps to the older couple who rented the place (ok – I know, but all the hippies got food stamps in the Bay Area in 1969.) They fed us on mung beans, and macaroni and butter. My boyfriend and I used to get our stamps real early on the day they came out, go down to the Coop grocery store on Shaddick Ave, buy a cherry coffeecake for a couple of stamps and devour it in the parking lot, then go back and turn over the rest. We were starving for real food most of the time, and broke.
I don’t know where the money came from, but somehow that Thanksgiving everyone scraped up some, and between that, some hoarded food stamps and some creative shoplifting, we put together a turkey dinner. Everybody we knew showed up – there must have been close to 35 people there, and everyone brought something. We took two doors off their hinges and laid them on bricks in the two big downstairs rooms (beautiful old formal rooms), opened the doors, and partied like it was 1969.
It was about as far as you can get from that Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving we all have in our heads. My mother had called that morning, upset because I wasn’t going to be with my family. I had to get up at 5 AM to get enough hot water to bathe. Half the people in the house hadn’t been speaking to the other half. We stole quite a bit of the meal.
But that all got forgotten when we got in the kitchen and that turkey started to smell good and there were actual potatoes being mashed and bottles of wine going around. I know I’ve never tasted a more delicious Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve had as much fun on Thanksgivings since then, but I’ve never had any more fun than I did that day.
We lived on tortillas and jack cheese between the time the leftovers ran out, and the first of the month. The dishes didn’t get washed until two days before Christmas. There was a huge battle over the cleanup. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.