Thanksgiving #1

20 Nov

Today, we will be attending our second annual Thanksgiving get-together. This event came out of several discussions centering on family obligations. Obligations many of us have come to expect but with reluctant acceptance.

Some are blessed with families, all truly happy to come together around a rather large bird.  But for many, the thought of spending festive time with those who share a gene pool, no matter how good the turkey and fixings, can be overwhelming.

Hence, today’s “family” Thanksgiving. All in attendence come with the same baggage. Except my hubby. He likes going to see his family. Not that there aren’t any blood relatives who play unfairly. There are. It’s just that hubby learned from a very young age how to ignore them. Unfortunately, no one at Kaukab’s table did.

Last year, at our first event, we all came together at one of the families’ homes, situated on 10 acres with a lovely creek running through it. We did it ‘Better Homes and Gardens style. Outdoors, with a long row of tables, clothed with fall colors and mis-matched chairs. We all brought various foods. I brought dressing, green beans (not the casserole one), and cranberry sauce (from fresh whole berries that I did not pick from my bog).

This year, I’m bringing more dressing and cranberry sauce. Someone decided to do beans this year, so I’m off the hook. (This same person doesn’t feel comfortable making dressing, so I raised my hand and was approved.)

Kaukab never made cranberry sauce from whole berries. I’m not sure why. We grew up with the canned cranberry with the ring imprints. And, she never made dressing. Her Thanksgiving table held mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, tabouli or salad, and rolls to supplement the turkey, which she’d prepare very early Thanksgiving morning in time to have our holiday meal no later than 1p.m., as opposed to our cousins, who lived two blocks over. They’d have theirs during the dinner hour, generally around 6p.m.; which meant, that we’d have to wait a long time between our meal and theirs before we could pile into the car and visit the several first cousins who’d make their way from numerous other street blocks to this same house.

My Uncle “Jimmy,” (Jamil) who was younger than my father and more “Americanized,” would have the bar set up and all kinds of football blaring from the television and radio. He’d be the one making the drinks and then plunk himself in his chair, t.v. tray positioned and armed with small dishes of olives, nuts, cheeses, and pita bread, and puffing on his large cigar, making sports-talk to anyone who’d listen. Usually, my father would be seated to his right on the nearby sofa, blurting out political-speak, rambling on about taxes, crooked politicians, and the ruin of American society. These two divergent speak-easys would inevitably collide and I’d see them both morph into boyhood figures. Amusing, but not pretty.

The women staked their claim on the kitchen. This is where I learned the fine art of a different politic. The subtlties of verbal one upmanship, which sometimes became not-so-subtle. Over coffee and dessert, these mothers would discuss matters running the gamut from recipes to rendevous of unsuspecting church ladies. Mostly, they’d speak these unspeakables in Arabic, often forgetting that I understood every word-morsel offered. Often, I would hear from Kaukab an indignant, “Whad a madder weet you!” Which, would inevitably cause a verbal rumble around the festive holiday table. At evening’s end, all would kiss-and-make up, wishing one another a final ‘Happy Thanksgiving.’

Every Thanksgiving, we could look forward to the same. Year in, year out. As the cousins got older and had families of their own, the Thanksgivings as we knew them, stopped. Funerals became the new Thanksgiving. Amusing, in a different, morbid sort of way.

So today, I’m looking forward to having Thanksgiving #1. Sharing good times with those who’ve become like family. Minus the crazy.

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