For me, Thanksgiving has been a historically eventful day. The month of November has always been full of drama – both pleasant and foreboding. Yet, there are days that I look back on and smile or shudder because whether I like it or not, nothing puts more fun into Thanksgiving than my dysfunctional family.
1. Cornucopia of horrors
For the first and probably last time that I could remember, there was a Thanksgiving where my mother, father, and my 5-year-old self joined my grandmother from my dad’s side in her small kitchen for dinner. I can’t remember the exact reason why, but I hesitated with using my fork. I didn’t want to put my lips on it, so I was dragging the food off with my teeth.
Seeing me doing this, Granny, who was wearing more face paint than Braveheart, points her fork at me and says, “I don’t know why she can’t use a fork like a normal person.” It was covered in goopy mashed potatoes and scarlet lipstick. Well, that certainly wasn’t normal enough for me. I gasped and turned to my mom, giving her a pleading look.
She vowed to never have another holiday dinner there again. Mind you, this was to soon be the same grandmother who mortified me with her statement, “I like the turkey’s ass. It’s the juiciest part.” Huh, no wonder my mom always asked for ham after that.
2. Hearing a grown man wail like a baby
One year, trying something different for a change, I joined my Grandma and Grandpa (Mother’s side) for Thanksgiving at my Aunt’s house. Aunt’s boyfriend, a true psycho who is no longer with us, thank goodness, gave me an hour lesson on how basting the turkey was the woman’s job (mine) for the evening. I scowled at him the entire time he tried to instruct me on how to use the ladle correctly.
Afterward, when he cornered me on the outside patio and asked why I hadn’t checked on the turkey, the then 14-year-old me raised my palm up towards his face and said flatly, “Talk to the hand.” Apparently, he didn’t like being shot down. Sputtering, he ran to my mom, crying about how I told him to talk to the hand and how he didn’t understand what that meant. The best part of the evening was hearing a grown man wail like a baby.
3. The guest that I just wanted to punch in the face
Ever have that guest you just want to punch in the face? That was Granny’s boyfriend. This man was egotistical and deluded in every sense of the word. Every Thanksgiving he used to honor us with endless rants about people’s placement in society.
Or about how the metal plate in his head allowed him to hear radio waves. My mom would often mix him strong Whiskey Sours just to knock him out. There was one Thanksgiving in particular where my Aunt was in attendance. Having gotten sick, Granny’s boyfriend looked like nothing more than a wizened raisin. She turned to my mom and said, “He’s 90 pounds of nasty.”
Come to think of it, that was the same year my aunt’s psychotic boyfriend came. He asked to hold my hamster, Jingles but dropped the critter within 2 minutes. Horrified, I scooped up my rodent companion and gave a remark that left the entire table stunned. Whoops.
4. It was the best of times
Although a lot of Thanksgiving has been marked with someone getting sick or my cousins somehow flinging manure or grease at one another (don’t ask), there have been some really awesome moments that outshine every altercation. Like the time I made a vegan pumpkin pie that was around 80 calories a slice.
Everyone opted for it over my grandmother’s, and that made her super jealous. Because nobody out bakes, Grandma, nobody. Or the time I had finally started to lose weight and get muscle. My aunt looked me up and down after giving me a hug and said, “You look great, you b*tch.”
On a serious note though, one of my favorite Thanksgiving was back when we had 7 cats. My mom, Granny’s 90 pounds of nasty boyfriend, and I went for a walk in the woods. Halfway through the trail, I stopped. Bounding down the road after us was our orange tom, Maurice.
This was the start of a strange phenomenon where our cats would happily join us for evening walks. After that, my mom and I got the remainder of the turkey, sliced it down, and divided it up between 7 plates for the 3 kittens – Abby, Devon, and Bear, their mother Tina, Maurice, my boy Ozzie, and Queen Wicket (named after the Star Wars Ewok). I think that was the only Thanksgiving where the leftovers were not solely comprised of turkey.
One of the best, however, was not to be a Thanksgiving spent with real family but with adopted ones. I was in Japan, where there is no such as turkey. But I do remember all the other students at the school asking me if turkey tastes like chicken, and what I thought about Japan serving KFC in lieu of an actual Thanksgiving dinner.
But that also made me realize how a family is not just those you grow up with. It is those people who remain in your memories forever, through the good and bad times. Here’s to making memories! Happy Holidays to you and yours.