Office pods are starting to empty, gone are the cans of cream of mushroom soup on grocery shelves everywhere. I can already smell my grandmother's signature sticky cinnamon buns baking all the way in Indiana.
But I can also hear the debates, which I'm certain will start no more than five minutes after my family gathers, about one or all of Donald Trump's statements, about the Syrian refugees, about ISIS and college football and whether or not climate change is to blame for the Midwest getting blanketed with several inches of snow this week.
So this year, I'm coming prepared.
Here are five stories that won't show up on a political talking points memo and are relatively low on the controversy scale. I'll be employing them strategically this Turkey Day, and you can, too.
"Did you hear the one about the Tinder kidney?"
This story has maximum distraction potential. A guy meets a girl on the dating app Tinder, tells her about his friend's wife who needs a kidney, and she benevolently hands hers over. And if that grand gesture isn't enough to make the fam feel warm and fuzzy, it's likely at least one family member over age 40 will not know what Tinder is, and you'll feel #blessed to inform them, which will perhaps lead to a tale about how your grandparents met at a soda shop after a sock hop. "Like Grease?" you'll ask, and by then it's time for pie and nobody wants to argue over pie.
"3 banks, 30 minutes, 1 question: Why?"
That headline conveniently works as a dramatic one-liner to set up this curious tale. If your family is into True Detective, they'll be into this one. The day after Mother's Day, a married mom of three in Valrico showered, walked her chihuahuas, and searched the Internet for instructions on how to rob banks. Then she did just that, three times, in a half hour. It's long enough to get you through at least two helpings of mashed potatoes.
"So there's this dog, and she has a bucket list."
"Tell me more" is likely what your gruff uncle Ralph will say, because even if he does like to shoot Bambi on the weekends, this heartwarming story of Angel the Australian cattle mix will make him rapt, chin in palm, until the end. The 12-year-old dog had been at the Suncoast Animal League in Palm Harbor for nearly six months, and nobody would make her theirs. So the shelter volunteers decided to step up their game. They drafted a bucket list, with items like "be a first mate on a boat ride" and "eat a grilled grouper sandwich." For No. 50, they wrote: "Find a forever home."
"Believe it or not, this guy in Tarpon Springs wrapped his home in tin foil, and it has nothing to do with aliens."
This story even comes with visual aids, if you need them. A Polish artist who studied in Chicago moved to Florida and was inspired by its beauty. Naturally, his mind went right to Reynolds Wrap, so he bought a few heavy duty rolls at Costco and went to town. His house. His palm trees. Even his mailbox. One neighbor's reaction: "I don't know what the heck that thing is."
"And now I'm going to say the word 'Playboy' and see what happens."
Last month, the venerable men's magazine announced it would halt the publication of photos of naked women. "Google it," you can say to your cousins when they don't believe you. Then, you can talk about this classic photo, which might make granny blush, but will certainly make you sound like a pop culture history buff.
There's plenty of material here to get you through the pre-dinner cheese plate, the wine-infused table talk and the post pie-nap second wind. But if your efforts to block controversy like a lineman fail, then there's this: Settle It! PolitiFact's Argument Ender.
At least you can be an informed referee.
Contact Katie Mettler at [email protected] or (813) 226-3446. Follow @kemettler.