Thanksgiving with the Family
Another year, another turkey, another day of pishing. For all the goyim out there, that translates to peeing in Yiddish. No, we don’t urinate at the table. In our family, we always thought that pishing meant “happy tears”, which we exhibit frequently. The contradiction in definitions only came up this year when my Aunt Melanie found out.
“You know, my friend so-and-so said that it really means peeing”
”Really? Hm. Who knew? Well, for us, it’s different”
And they continued with their demonstration, grinning and bawling.
To start, everyone on my mother’s side of the family has their holiday. Aunt Gail always hosts Hannukah. Melanie always hosts break fast for Yom Kippur. My mother always hosts Thanksgiving. That’s the way it is.
First comes the moving of furniture. Everything has to be set up just right. Two long tables, enough to seat about twenty people - our normal amount - fill the dining room, spilling out into the living room. Thankfully, we have been able to fit everyone in all the houses we’ve had, big and small - even in an apartment. I always do the seating plan then, placing everyone apart from their immediate family and next to their favorite cousin or one they haven’t seen in a while. We have permanent place cards, and if you have one, you’re there to stay for a while. This year, my cousin Jenn’s “life partner” Todd got one. Whenever that title is mentioned, it’s always met with a laugh, usually from Jenn.
“It sounds like we’re gay”
They’re not planning on getting married, so it works.
Second comes the turkey, which is always a production. It has to be stuffed with bread and herbs, rubbed with butter and whatnot, hoisted into the pan (to feed 20 people, this is a monstrous beast of a turkey), the pan ooph-ed into the oven, and the bird basted. Every ten minutes. This year the heated task fell upon me. You suck up all the turkey juice and spit it back. on the turkey to moisturize its skin. I end up slaving over the hot oven, while my mother gets all the credit for feeling up the turkey while stuffing it.
By the time everyone arrives, the house is warm and reeks of turkey and other foodstuffs. The smell only increases as people deposit their goods in the kitchen, decreasing what little amount of counter space we have left. The “Brooklyn Boys” hand over their broccoli rabe, which seems to be the only dish they know how to buy. Miles and Ricky are my mother’s cousins, which makes Miles’ son, little Josh, my second cousin. Melanie’s son, Big Josh, is my first cousin. Last year little Josh came with an injury, something with his ear. There was some kind of blood blister on the lobe, and he had to get it lanced at the hospital. So, when he came, there was a huge bandage covering his left ear. That was last year’s big discussion topic. This year it was cousin Eli’s semester in Ghana.
Eli attends Tulane University in New Orleans. For the first semester of his junior year in college, he went to Accra, the capitol of Ghana. When hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, we all marveled at how he was safer in an African country - abutting one in civil war even - than in America. Needless to say, he had many stories to relate to those who hadn’t heard any yet. There was the voodoo priest who cured him from a curse, the bus ride through war torn Cote D’Ivoire, and the giant indigenous statue of a god with a giant erect penis in Burkina Faso. When village women had problems, they went to the statue.
They do not pray the same way we do.
Eli went on with the voodoo ceremony,
“The priest had me get 2 chickens, 2 bottles of gin, and other things, like feathers…I really did have a curse! The priest described this other guy in our program who was jealous of me, we knew that already, and he had cursed me apparently”
After everyone’s caught up, and the chocolate’s been delved into, we all make our way to the table and sit down. Uncle Frank carves the turkey, using his electric knife to slice into the meat. With every stomach groaning and stretched to the limit, we move on to what the holiday is about: giving thanks. My mother insists on going around, each person verbalizing their blessings. One relative this year was thankful for the turkey cookies. Aunt Melanie is a first grade teacher, and is therefore privy to many secret elementary school cute little things. This year, one former student brought cookies shaped like turkeys to school. Now, these were not cutouts, but 3-D turkeys, with candy corn for beaks and feet. She replicated them and brought them to dinner, but for many around our table, they were too cute to eat. I, however, never one to turn down chocolate, ate two. Stale candy corn is really good.
When we get to Jenn and the other non-emotional people like her:
“O god, it’s turning into group therapy”
“Oh, just be thankful”
But the pishing continues,
“It’s just-I’m just-so happy”
The latter, if you can guess, is my mother, being my mother on Thanksgiving.
“The whole family together..” (she laughs at herself in the middle of tears) “I’m just so grateful for having such a wonderful family..” and she elaborates, still with tears falling.
The thanks continue as we journey around the table - some words political, some religious, most thankful for family.
I’m thankful for my family. Even though we may create scenes whilst bawling into the cranberry sauce, we have more fun than pigs in mud. My crazy family is louder than a hungry baby, and loves chocolate more than Hershey. But we love each other, even when we get exasperated. Jenn is just joking, and we have come to expect the yearly ritual. I love my mom because of her pishing, and if she didn’t sob into stuffing at Thanksgiving, she wouldn’t be the same person. I adore her for her imperfections, and without them, she wouldn’t be my mother, and Thanksgiving wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining.
*Note: When my mother first read this, she started pishing.
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