Well, that title ("the saddest thanksgiving") is a stretch, and anyway I mean it ironically. No one was ill, and there was enough to eat, and all that.
I was new in grad school and didn't know a lot of people. As I had papers to write and papers to grade before the end of the semester in December, I was just too busy to travel for Thanksgiving. It was easy to justify, because I'd have four weeks off in Dec and Jan, so that's when I travelled to see friends and family.
Anyway, a couple of acquaintences, also grad students, invited a few of us strays to their house for Thanksgiving dinner. I accepted, and asked what I could bring. "Wine," they said.
So I showed up carrying three bottles of red wine, including two of that year's just-released Beaujolais Nouveau.
Now, like most people I know, I have certain olfactory expectations of Thanksgiving. There's a smell a house has when turkeys are roasting and pumpkin pies are baking, you know? Sage and nutmeg and roasting bird....
I walked into this particular house, however, and there was no aroma at all! I was temporarily confused, and drifted toward the kitchen, where the hostess described our Thanksgiving menu: tofu lasagna made with soy cheese, spinach salad, puree of chickpea, &c.
I had stumbled into Vegan Thanksgiving. Ahhhrrr!
Fortunately, I was not the only person who brought wine, and these vegans were very light drinkers. Which is to say, what I lacked in turkey, stuffing, and gravy I attempted to make up for in Beaujolais Nouveau. Thus fortified, I was able to be a good sport and hide my disappointment.
But since that year, I've taken a more active role in planning Thanksgiving.