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Thanksgiving dinner at the kiddie table. My mother always cooked the turkey and all the trimmings. When it was done, she'd summon my Dad to carve it. Both were masterful at their jobs. We never travelled. Various aunts and uncles and cousins would come to us. Macy's Parade on TV. Then the football game on in the background. Like today always the Detroit Lions, so like today nobody gave a shit. No tree or decorations yet. That jumping-the-gun on Xmas stuff didn’t start until years later. We ate late....usually around 5:30pm. People would start gathering around 3 or so....and they'd all be tortured by the glorious smells coming from the always too-small kitchen. Anybody who ventured in there would be chased away. State your official business or piss off. No nibbling allowed. There was always way too much food. We Irish folk never paced ourselves in anything. Because we ate so late were were ravenous and ate too much too fast, and nobody ever had the stamina to go diving in for more. Easier to just start drinking again. Italians would start before noon and drag it out like some sort of food opera with multiple arias......still going strong hours later. For Irish families it was more like a sitcom, a mad dash to start and finish the dishes between the commercials. We had enough leftovers for a month. Italians? Maybe enough for a late night raid a few hours later. Other than that it was like crows had picked the Italian table clean. My Mom's stuffing was controversial, as she always put raisins in it. Stuffing is serious business to a lot of folks, and nothing provokes more snide, whispered asides. I loved it. My Mom didn't give a fiddler's fart. This was how she did it and this was her house. If you don't like the raisins fuck off and pluck them out. And then there was the cranberry sauce, which I was obsessed with. My Mom would buy 2 cans. One for me. And one for everybody else. And of course me at the aforementioned kiddie table. Two card tables lashed together and covered with a cloth, set up in the living room. Our chairs came from wherever chairs might be stashed. The garage. The basement. The neighbor’s shed. We could see the master table, but were too far away to hear what was going on there. We had miniature versions of everything they had, including salt and pepper and our own butter for the rolls. One of us was deputized to raid the main table if they missed anything. It was usually the next one in line to the main table......the one who knew his promotion was directly tied to when the next adult died. Kinda creepy in retrospect but I didn't make the rules. The main table wasn't like the movies. You didn't bring the Turkey fresh out of the oven and lay it in uncarved in front of the man at the head of the table....where is sat mathematically placed among the perfectly manicured, heaping side dishes and the well-scrubbed, smiling masses. Norman Rockwell did not live in Dunmore, bubba. It was more like a free-for-all.......plates were placed wherever they'd fit, and everybody did their best to grab the best slices of white meat before they fell on the floor and the dog commandeered them. I don't recall anybody ever "passing" anything. There was nowhere near that level of sophistication. You just grabbed whatever you could reach, and if you had to get up to get the mashed potatoes, you got up and got the mashed potatoes. There would be a slight pause for "Grace"....and they'd always ask somebody from the kiddie table to lead them. Boilerplate version. "Bless us our Lord for these thy gifts blah blah blah...." Nothing extemporaneous, ever. And then? In 20 minutes it was over. There wasn't multiple courses or anything like that. No lingering over soup and salad and wondering what piece of silverware to use. It was just a food dump, all at once, and everybody was on their own, and if all you wanted to eat was a can of cranberry sauce, nobody gave a toss. Before you knew it your plate was plucked away and placed in the sink, and the coffee and dessert orders were being taken. Then the lingering began.....the adults swapping stories for hours over Folgers and pumpkin pie. Mom always had cool whip AND real whipped cream, in case any weirdos still preferred the latter. Usually these were the same sociopaths who liked the dark meat. Never trust these people. By this time the coffee was the only thing warding off the tryptophan, and a few times I would succumb to nap on the bed upstairs, where everybody's coats were....because that's where the coats go. Those were the best dreams. Buffeted by a mountain of warm coats, with a full belly and everything right with the world......free from want, with Santa the next batter up. Rockwell could have painted this picture too.
In a bit…