Thanksgiving: 12

Thanksgiving is always at our house.

Thanksgiving is watching Home Alone in the basement with the cousins, even though it’s technically a Christmas movie.

Thanksgiving is Grandpa speaking German to the dog as he makes the gravy and she salivates from her rug.  I haven’t yet taken my year of University German, but I’m old enough to notice a word that sounds like “shy-zah” is frequently repeated.

Thanksgiving is not helping Mom and Aunt Sue and Uncle Harold make rolls, but instead waiting until they’re done and stealing them three at a time to take into the yard.  Capture the flag becomes a lot more intense when your stomach is swollen and sifting flour as you run and your pockets are bulging with “See?  I just took one more.”

Thanksgiving is the kids table, which is really me and Amy, and cousins Martha and Jamie.  Martha is only two months older than me, which is pretty good.  What’s better?  Jamie and Amy were born on the exact same day.  As a matter of fact, Jamie was going to be named Amy, but since our Amy was born first, my aunt and uncle had to pull a different name off the bench.  I’m not sure if that story is actually true, but we tell it over and over and call them “twin cousins.”

The kids table has sparkling grape juice and sparkling pear juice and sparkling apple juice and Mom lets us drink out of champagne flutes.  We clink glasses periodically.  We aren’t deterred if we run out of poetic toasts: putting the word “to”–we’ve discovered–in front of any food we’re particularly fond of is always classy.  “To cider!” we laugh, “to stuffing!” “to endless rolls and bottomless pockets!”

Thanksgiving is always being trounced at Monopoly, for reasons that still escape me.  Even volunteering to be the banker (putting myself within easy reach of a few 500s here, a few 50s there) doesn’t help much.  I go to jail for the fourth time.  And I can never manage to roll doubles to get myself out.

Thanksgiving extends, perhaps by way of a golden thread of tryptophan, into the next morning.  We’re sleeping on the living room floor on beds made of quilts stacked four-high, and we wake to the flourescent kitchen lights turning on, to Mom grinding coffee.  It is Black Friday, and we have work ahead of us.

People often say that it’s nuts to go to Mall of America on Black Friday.  It’s nuts, it’s crazy, you’ll get trampled, you’ll get elbowed, you’ll wait in line for hours only to find that everything’s already gone. What those people don’t know is that if you get there early enough, if you fight the tryptophan and rise before the sun and wait at the doors until they open, you will have your pick of the spoils.  And you will be among the few.  Most shoppers arrive at 10, having greedily slept off the previous day’s feast.  There are three hours before they come, and that includes twenty minutes reserved for Cinnabon.

I’m only twelve and don’t have much money to spend, but regardless there’s something exhilarating about the largeness of the mall and the faint chlorine smell wafting in from Camp Snoopy.  Although I’m too young to shop at Express (I recently had its name as a spelling word), I accept a Special Offer Limited Time New Edition beaded clutch from one of the store’s black-clad employees.  “It’s free,” she assures us with a tight smile.  Maybe she hasn’t had her Cinnabon yet.

Thanksgiving is, I think drowsily on the way home — I’m squashed between a Williams Sonoma bag and a Bath and Body bag and can’t comfortably stretch out — a time to be thankful for things we have, and a time that simultaneously manages to demonstrate just how thankful we ought to be.

One of the twin cousins is snoring softly, and public radio is a lullaby and so I make your list quickly: I am thankful for Home Alone, for the kids’ table, for Cinnabon, for tryptophan, for excess of family and rolls, for German profanity, for twin cousins, and for honest bankers.  Mostly (and I’ll admit this only to myself and the 8-pack of coconut-lime body lotion jabbing into my shin), I’m thankful for my new beaded clutch.

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