“I know what will be fun. Let’s go around the table and say what we are thankful for.” Ugh! My mother said this as though a lightbulb had literally just switched on over her head, as if she’d just thought of this idea two seconds ago. Like she hadn’t said this every Thanksgiving for the past sixteen years I’d known her.
“I’ll go first,” she continued, fingering the hideous turquoise necklace around her neck that she dragged out every Thanksgiving as her nod to Native American culture. Next followed a litany of things she was grateful for, including the mild winter and President Carter (even though she was a Republican, she strongly believed every President deserved mention). My older brother, Buddy, was wedged into her list between Barbra Streisand and our new pastor at church. I came much later, with a caveat that my grades must continue to hold up and I mustn’t get distracted. By distracted, she meant, of course, my best friend, Kit, who was celebrating Thanksgiving in New York with her parents. It sounded so glamorous. So Kit. And although I’d been invited to go with them, my mother wouldn’t hear of it.
“Me next,” my funky Aunt Linda chimed in, cutting off my mother midsentence. Aunt Linda was totally far out. She had arrived wearing cool bell-bottoms, a psychedelic shirt, and a long, skinny, red scarf wrapped around her frizzy perm.
“Well, Linda,” my mother said, when Linda didn’t continue. “Enlighten us.”
“Moving on.” My mother turned her gaze toward Gerald, my eighteen-year-old know-it-all cousin, indicating he better come up with something better.
“Apple,” he said.
“The computer company, Aunt Jean. It’s gonna be so rad—”
“I doubt it. Clarice? What about you?”
Aunt Clarice, who unfortunately bore the maiden aunt title in our family, didn’t disappoint. “I’m so grateful for Miss Marple. She’s my Pekingese,” she explained, as if she hadn’t spent all morning telling us how wretched she felt leaving her home alone. “She’s not used to being—”
“Okay,” my mother moved on to Buddy. “What about you, son?”
Buddy leaned forward, his elbows on the table. He looked so handsome with his hair curling over the top of his pale-blue acrylic turtleneck sweater. Not that I’d ever tell him that, of course. “I’m grateful for . . .”
“Go on,” Mom urged him.
“For this delicious turkey . . . this awesome meal. Thanks, Mom.”
My mother looked satisfied, as her fingers twirled around the large turquoise stones at her throat. Score one for Buddy. Again.
The remaining family members continued. Uncle Frazier was grateful for Reggie Jackson. Aunt Hattie was thankful for disco, in particular Donna Summer (at her age! Aunt Hattie was at least a hundred). My grandfather was delighted that he had his damn sciatica under control and made special mention of the tamales he’d consumed for breakfast (he said this eyeing my mother’s turkey with distaste). And when it was my dad’s turn, he raised his glass. “I’m grateful for my family. For Buddy, who I am proud to call my son; for Valerie, who brings me joy every day. And for my wife, Jean, who makes all this possible.” He waved his glass in the air to encompass everyone at the table.
Content, my mom turned her attention to me. “Valerie. Your turn.”
I had intended to say I was most grateful for my best friend, Kit, who I was missing so much this past week. She’d called me once to tell me they’d been to the World Trade Center and had tickets that night for the show Annie. I would have given anything to be with her.
“Well, Valerie,” I heard my mom’s impatient voice. She put an elbow on the table and cupped her chin in her hand. “Can you think of something before Christmas gets here?”
“Sorry,” I said, toying with the napkin on my lap. “It’s you, Mom. I’m grateful for you.”
She nodded, smiled, and looked the most grateful of all.
|Throwback Thanksgiving: (top) Patty, Patty's daughter Melissa, Roz|
(bottom) Melissa, Roz, Patty's husband Johnny
Happy Thanksgiving from Roz and Patty AND Val & Kit!!!