My Family’s Traditional Thanksgiving Poop Story

There’s something a little backwards about my family’s traditional post-Thanksgiving Christmas tree hunt. To get to an actual Christmas tree farm, as in one where the trees still grow in the ground and you have to cut them down with a saw or an axe, you need to drive most of the way from Chicago to the Wisconsin state line. It would be vastly more efficient for me to stop on my way down from Madison and just throw a tree on the roof of my car, although my two-door Honda Civic would put a pretty hard limit on height. But efficiency’s not really the point, now is it? It’s tradition, and that’s the important thing.

Of course, there is a Christmas tree farm closer to Chicago. But we can’t go there anymore, because of shame. Would you like to know that story?

Obviously you would like to know that story.

It goes like this: turkey and cranberry sauce, in massive quantities and well-lubricated by the finest in wines and liquors, have predictable after-effects the next day.

These after-effects are not meant to be shared with the world. Ideally they are dealt with in a second-story bathroom while the rest of the house is on the ground floor, perhaps with a boombox playing something soothing and classical in the background. (In the background for the turkey-and-cranberry-sauce-sufferer, I mean. The people downstairs want something loud, with lots of percussion, to drown out any stray sounds.)

But one Black Friday my family and I had traipsed out to somewhere or other in Lake County and hunted the wild Christmas tree, and we were just paying and having it fed through the little wire bundling machine when Thanksgiving dinner struck.

I fled to the outhouse, a porta-potty stationed not fifteen feet from the checkout area. This being back in the days when November was a cold time of year, I was not thrilled with the amenities, but Mom’s cranberry sauce brooks no argument. It is fiberful stuff. My butt was going on that freezing plastic whether I wanted it to or not.

And then, the apocalypse happened.

I have no idea what it was about that particular year. Perhaps the cranberries were especially thick-skinned. Perhaps portapotties are simply very effective echo chambers. We’ll never know, but I’m sure they heard me in Kenosha:




And so on, for what seemed like hours but was (I am told) more like five, horrifying minutes, during which the entire gathering of family, Christmas tree hunters, and Christmas tree farmers turned and stared, drawn as if their stunned faces were iron filings and the rocking outhouse a particularly foul-smelling magnet.

I, of course, was oblivious to all of this until I emerged, having done what I could with the tissue-like toilet paper. To this day I am a little hurt that no one applauded. We paid in a sort of awkward silence, and left, never to return, the only remnant of our stay a defiled Port-A-John in a farmer’s field.

Needless to say, this story comes up nearly every Thanksgiving dinner, usually in the form of an admonishment: “careful with that fourth bowl of cranberry sauce, Geoffrey…”

We all have our quaint little holiday traditions. What’s yours?


  1. I’m weeping tears of laughter/pain. There’s just nothing like a good holiday poop story. Thankfully…

    • Well, looking back through the archives, last year’s heartwarming Thanksgiving tale was about Christmas trees getting stuck in inappropriate places, so Lord only knows what I’ll have to come up with for an encore next November.

  2. may i please repost your image of the porta potty?

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