Let's Talk Turkey

Suzanne Blais is wrapping herself up for Christmas. Share your Thanksgiving trauma at [email protected]

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Every Thanksgiving I feel as though I am stuck in the middle of a "National Lampoon's Family Vacation" movie. Sitting at home watching the family tragedy unfold, I half expect Chevy Chase to come stumbling out of the kitchen, turkey baster in hand, claiming that he won't take us all to Wally World if we don't start behaving ourselves. The cast includes bickering elderly relatives who can't hear a damn thing, and children so doped up on sugar they could power a building if made to run around on a hamster wheel.

At the close of the evening, I usually end up hiding in the kitchen, hoping to God no one will think to look for me there and ask me why the hell I'm not married yet.

My family usually celebrates holidays with my mother's Irish-Italian kin. Most of my mom's brothers are police officers, and inevitably each year one of them is on duty. On breaks they'd cruise by our gathering in full uniform (gun and all) and let us play with their billy clubs and jump in the backseat of their squad cars, just like real criminals!

Thanksgiving 2000 was no exception to the rule of ridiculous holidays. This year, my uncle informed me that since I am now an anthropology major and not a business major I am worthless and meaningless and have no purpose in life and that I will never find true happiness. Meanwhile his three poster children for Ritalin were beating each other up over who would get to eat the prized turkey leg.

Just after we managed to wrestle the kids into chairs and start gnawing away at the carcass of the bird, my uncle's new golden retriever puppy, fresh from a dip in our freezing-cold-yet-undrained pool came in and shook off algae-filled water all over us and our precious bird. Calamity ensued as my aunts screamed and leapt from the table, knocking over a bottle of wine and dumping cranberry sauce on the rug. My uncles were busy chasing the dog all over the house, using every name in the book and a few more in Italian that I didn't quite catch. The three brats laughed until they had to spit out the turkey for which they had fought so hard five minutes prior.

In all the commotion, my own 14-year-old lhasa apso got really nervous and peed all over my parents' new rug. I continued to drink wine throughout the whole episode, so by the time dessert rolled around (oh good, more sugar for the kids - maybe their little heads will explode), I was handed the pumpkin pie and while passing it to my aunt Kat, I dropped it on the table in an orange gooey heap. That signaled that it was time for everyone to go amid whispers that I must have a "problem." My only "problem" is that Christmas is frighteningly close, missy!

One year, some poor lost souls accidentally wandered into our family's Thanksgiving event. They were really trying to find their way to my grandmother's neighbors' door. They had a few servings of Aunt Margie's clam dip before we realized that none of my aunts had recently married two Asian men. Unfortunately for them, they had already been accosted by Uncle Dave, who had engaged them in a heated debate over the merits of purchasing versus leasing a car. The guys didn't speak English, so they nodded their heads at everything he said and instantly became his new best friends. Pretty soon they figured out they were in the wrong place and cheerily headed out the door. I tried to follow them out, but my grandmother caught my arm and pinched me. Hard.

That must have been the year we discovered that my grandmother was accidentally taking the dog's steroids instead of her own heart medication. She was a huge help that year in moving the dining room table, a giant cherry wood monstrosity.

I think my favorite part of our yearly Thanksgiving celebration is when my dad and I annually escape in order to get ice and a pack of slim cigarettes for Aunt Lois. Every year we never have enough ice. I'm not sure what it is about the stuff that people go nuts for around the holidays. My dad and I have to circle the city until we find an open Fast and Easy Mart, the whore of grocery stores. Dad goes up and down every aisle, reading packages and asking whatever poor, unfortunate soul working behind the counter if they have myriad of bizarre items, like socket wrenches and D batteries. We always take the long way home and trudge up the stairs. And we usually forget the ice.

The Thanksgiving after my grandmother died, nobody felt much like celebrating. We still had the party at her house, but there really wasn't a party to be had. I took it upon myself to create the perfect holiday spread, to infuse the Thanksgiving spirit into all of my relatives. I carefully constructed a storybook Thanksgiving meal - a Butterball turkey, stuffing from a box, veggies previously frozen, even that weird green bean dish with the canned onion rings on top. But the whole damn thing blew like the Stanford Tree must have done to prompt their victory in the Moderately Large Game. Everybody smiling and providing polite conversation absolutely sucked.

That is, it blew until the controversy re-emerged over who it was who had knocked the Blessed Mother figurine off the mantel and broke it in 1957. "It was you, Tommy!" Uncle Jack yelled. "No it wasn't! I was the one who swallowed the baby Jesus out of the Nativity scene when I was 2 years old!"

"You're both wrong," my mother chimed in. "That was the dog we had that chewed bricks and ate bees."

Somehow the whole thing morphed into this battle over who cracked their head open on Uncle Tom's new Cadillac. It could only be settled in the backyard with a wiffle ball and bat, and Uncle Jack ended up with a bloody nose.

Somebody, snap a picture! This one's a keeper.


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