The countdown is on to Thanksgiving. As I coordinate with my mom what to cook for the big day, I’m also about to press play on a classic Thanksgiving movie for the gazillionth time — 1987’s “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”
The John Hughes flick is a Chappell family staple. It’s shaped my life and sense of humor. When I’m sick or sad, it provides the best medication — a belly laugh.
But it also has provided a heartfelt life lesson similar to my family’s Thanksgiving ritual.
Warning: spoilers ahead.
The movie goes like this: Marketing executive Neal Page (Steve Martin) is on a business trip in New York. All he wants is to make it home to Chicago in time to spend Thanksgiving with his wife and kids, but bad weather causes his flight to get canceled. In his travels, Neal meets lovable shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith (John Candy) and the duo settles on other means of transportation to make it back across the country. Neal initially despises the oafy Del but learns to love him along the way.
Perhaps the best scene of the movie is when Del gives a monologue late at night in a rural hotel room. He explains to Neal that he’s “the real article.” The scene reminds me of my dad and his unapologetic nature. My whole life, my dad has carried the mantra “what you see is what you get,” as Del says about himself.
Del talks of his wife throughout their journey and how excited he is to see her. But in the movie’s final scenes, the two finally arrive in Chicago and part ways at a CTA station in the Loop. Del gets off the train and as it pulls away, Neal remembers Del’s large trunk and thinks about how Del said he hadn’t been home in years. Neal returns to the station where he finds Del still sitting there. Del admits his wife has been dead for years, and that he’s homeless. Neal ends up inviting him to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family.
The story is outrageously hilarious but sweet. It reminds me of a tradition my parents have every year.
A practice passed down through my dad’s family for generations, we invite somebody over for Thanksgiving who may not have anywhere else to go. Many times, it’s someone from church or someone my parents work with or see outside their downtown Denver apartment building on the streets.
They’re probably wide-eyed when they enter our home on a chaotic holiday like Thanksgiving, but always grateful to have a warm home-cooked meal and a dose of our shenanigans.
This idea isn’t feasible this year — since it’s not advised to welcome people into your home due to COVID-19 — but think about it for the future. Though I don’t fully know what it feels like to be alone through the holidays, I can say pretty confidently that it probably sucks.
So when the pandemic is over, invite the Del Griffith in your life to come home for Thanksgiving. They’ll appreciate it more than you’ll ever know.
In News this week, find a story on students’ calls for Loyola to re-evaluate its connection to the Chicago Police Department. Also find a story on university safety precautions for a limited campus reopening next semester.
In Opinion, find a piece critiquing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and an essay debating the best time to bring out the holiday tunes.
In A&E, read a feature on a Rogers Park resident who paints local houses, nature and buildings and a breakdown of the best Saturday Night Live sketches from Donald Trump’s presidency.
In Sports, you’ll see a story on how the Band of Wolves is taking a financial hit as a result of pandemic-related budget constraints across the university.