The year I was 25, my brothers were there with their wives and five kids between them. My older, older brother stayed with us. The other, my younger, older brother stayed with his in-laws across town and brought his troops to visit on a daily basis. This might have been the same year that I left the frozen turkey in the trunk. I don’t really remember. In this context that’s really a detail.
The wonderful thing about having six cousins is that you can hold on to traditions, even the ones your parents have grown tired of. So that Thanksgiving Day and those before we’d become a family of three tables not two—the Grown-ups’ table as before and TWO kids tables—one for the little kids, the one that everyone has—and another one for us, because my cousins and I had refused to be promoted to the dining room where the Grown-ups were when we had come of age.
We thought our table was more fun than theirs. Well, one older cousin went and my older, older brother too, but they were first-borns so that was just expected. They had grown tired of our childish misbehaving. For some reason they didn’t like to laugh as much as we did. The rest of us guarded childhood fiercely, with swords and cap guns from our memories.
When Aunt Kay put the black olives on the table, as was the custom to keep the children out of the kitchen. Six twenty-somethings immediately went to them, each taking ten, we fit one on each fingertip and showed them off like jewelry before we ate them. We made sure to show our parents first, who simply shook their heads, sighed and chased us from the kitchen--that was the reaction we were going for. After all it was Thanksgiving tradition. If we didn’t get that shaking head, sigh, dismissal from the kitchen, we would have had to start the day all over. Tradition is tradition.
When dinner was ready, I, with the rest, took my plate from the table to the buffet to got my food, only to return to find my chair gone. I looked around a table of innocent cousin faces with one younger, older brother as their ringleader, looking most innocent of all.
“Where’s my chair, I wonder?”
“I wouldn’t know.”
I went to retrieve my chair. A short walk to the foyer and back was all it took and in that time my cousins took a bit of my bread, drank half of my milk, took part of my potatoes, and completely eaten all of my turkey. Which meant that I would have to return to the buffet and start again . . . and you can guess what happened.
I never worried about gaining weight on Thanksgiving Day when my younger, older brother and my cousins were around.
Tradition is tradition and one of their traditions was picking on me.
Not that I minded one bit. Funny is funny.
—me strauss Letting me be