I’m going to start off with a private truth, you guys. A kind-of secret. But not really.
I have always felt like I had two distinct childhoods. Like really and truly…split right down the middle and almost equal in time. It explains where I come from and how my today-family was cobbled and weaved together. For the first 9 years, I was a city ragamuffin. Raised in the vibe and energy of LA, where you lived your life surrounded by the hard working--a generation starting new—a melting pot here for promise and opportunity. It’s the village that made me colorful, that painted my everyday with bold and bright hues, that I’m certain is responsible for my lifelong sensitivity to any injustice of others, whether true, perceived or slight and my unwavering appreciation for culture. It gave me my first dose of beloved mayhem. In knowing that you can create a family from the people of your heart. But then, dear readers! Then came the suburbs! The total transition from anything and everything I knew to be true: Catholic School, dirty words, Franciscan pottery and Sarno’s were so over. It was cul-de-sac, Little Folk Shop and grilled chicken breast city all the way! I always embraced moving in with my aunt and uncle as an exciting adventure in vanilla, sitcom living. I went from an only child who was an honorary little sister and cousin, swept up in to the fun and food and music of the neighborhood kids like a merry band, and in to one just as fun for me and exactly what I was born to be: The Oldest. I became the honorary older sister, the big cousin—BOSSY BOOTS, you guys. And it was awesome.
|See? I'm bossing you guys right now.|
Thanksgiving brims with tradition for us. The house that hosts has changed three times in my almost 36 years (1985-1997* were the most tortuous for me…I ask you, is it necessary to create a Tuesday before TDay tradition of hand-washing every piece of Lenox in the always-pristine china cabinet? NO. It is not.) of attendance, but the suspects, mostly, remain usual and the food-love divine. We’re a family like velcro, so there are almost always at least two people every year who find their wagons unhitched and end up spending their holiday with us in sweet, marinated chaos. There’s a well thought-out menu plan but, when you come from a family that loves to cook and loves to drink, it ends up being a parade of gluttony despite the best laid efforts. One type of cranberry sauce becomes a trio—JUST IN CASE—and I still can’t figure out the logic of mashies AND rice pilaf, but what’s a girl to do? At least the one pie/person ratio is something I can get behind. We love a kid’s table with unlimited sparkling cider, random unnecessary appetizers (mozzarella sticks? For real?), a rant about the Reagan administration and someone bursting in to drunken tears, usually because there is SO MUCH LOVE. The cousins by marriage contingency are represented here. And there is music and spirits and FUN. Maybe some Uno, always some Ethel Merman kitchen singing. We disagree on many things but agree on the fundamentals: we eat, we drink and we love fiercely.
This year the general melee surrounded the fact that that turkey got itself brined for 3 days straight (this is nouveau for Auntie Debbie), there was a two week long Facebook war about creamy, delicious Grandma Hall’s Green Beans (tradition!) vs. boring, everyday tomato sauce green beans (Chad won, then had the nerve to attempt to get us to drink his 2010 Holiday concoction of Diet Root Beer and vodka. Gross.) , and even though everyone agreed to make this a fowl-only holiday and sacrifice the ham and the prime rib (I know, you guys.), a Honeybaked still ended up suspiciously on the buffet table (Auntie Donna loves the swine!). But the very most exciting thing that happened was that this is the first year any of the Other Side made it over. They are usually hither and yon at their paternal family’s house and we are always far, far away. So we suffice on “Happy Thanksgiving!” phone calls and make plans for our own holiday extravaganza. But not this year! Oh, the joy of this year! Their dinner wrapped up and I got a call on my celly. They loaded up and trekked out to us…we snagged 3 out of 5 Godcousins and one more Auntie and Uncle. So we Gave Thanks II—The Cabernet and Baklava Boogaloo! (We lost the other two cupcakes to Turkey Day camping. The nerve!)
Listen. It isn’t enough to say that I spend the day as it is marveling at what an amazing mom my cousin Dana is; at how my Godson is smart and funny and affectionate. I also spend the day marinating in the joy of consistent tradition: of Auntie Debbie and Auntie Donna doing their sister dance in the kitchen. Of everyone wearing aprons all the livelong day for no apparent reason. Of Uncle Bob lamenting about the goat nobody will let him adopt. Of James Taylor and The Beatles and Christmas music blaring. Of beautiful wine. I am sentimental and melancholy as it is, but the surprise of more of my not-little-anymore pipsqueaks showing up? CAN YOU IMAGINE?! We talked about love and Beyonce and legacy and life purpose. They’re in stages that are exhilarating and scary and optimistic for them, and it’s all I can do to not love every one of them so much I squeeze their precious guts out. I appreciate the angst, and the soul searching and the wanderlust. I encourage the travels and the leaps for love and the “Does anybody really know what color their stupid parachute is?”. I adore that they are all different: an old soul, a doting mama, a post-perfect co-ed rebel, a hipster, a stoner. I love their ideas, stories and souls.
And I make sure, everyday, that I am grateful for this unlikely family that has been weaved and cobbled for me by this life.
*Special shout-out to Thanksgiving 1989! The Cinderella slavery was overshadowed by the fact that we thought it would be grand to have my best boy friend’s whole family over for the dessert portion of the hootenanny. Unbeknownst to any of our people, he was rapidly becoming my First True Love and we had just had our first Make Out (yeah, boy!) on Thanksgiving Eve, post-“Look-Who’s Talking” and In-N-Out. So, I found myself sitting at the table, surrounded by our families and too embarrassed by my teenage lust and shame (When were we going to do it AGAIN?!) to make eye contact with anyone until my uncle said, “Nice hickey, Sue.” Really? Who doesn’t notice that? Apparently me. Scandalous!
**Ohhhh! Bonus shout-out to Thanksgiving 2005 when one cousin announced she was pregnant out of wedlock. Who ruined Thanksgiving that year, you guys? NOT ME!