Weird Relatives

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Thanksgiving is only three weeks away. I can’t believe it really. I’m not sure where October went. I know I showed up everyday for the entire month, but I didn’t do anything exciting like jet off to Europe and walk the runway. (They won’t let me on the runway. One, I’m too short. Two, I’m too old, and Three, well, let’s just say I had to do a lot of fancy foot work to get the records expunged.)

I love Thanksgiving. It’s one of my favorite holidays. Probably because it’s the one time of year I make stuffing and everyone loves my stuffing. How that happened, I have no idea, but far be it for me to argue when I’m getting a compliment. I also love the Macy’s Parade. I have a thing for parades. Probably dates back to my baton twirling days. But I digress.

Here’s the thing about Thanksgiving. The weird relatives have to come out. We can hide them all year long and pretend Aunt Sally doesn’t exist, but on Thanksgiving we have to unlock the attic door and allow her to see the light. We can handle Aunt Sally for one day, right? Yeah right. Until she yanks the turkey leg straight from the body of the bird and starts chasing Uncle Arthur around the table spewing those chants she thinks keep turkey spirits away. Yeah, you know what I mean.

I like to think of weird relatives as characters in a play. Everyone has a role. We have the director. That’s usually me. We have the carver. The carver likes to play with knives and has a hidden fetish for Sweeney Todd. There’s the sensible one. Her food isn’t allowed to touch on the plate which means several trips back and forth into the kitchen where she carefully washes her plate before she tries the mashed potatoes and the corn. And of course there’s Aunt Sally. I try to cast her as an understudy, but there’s no stopping that woman once she gets her hands on that bird.

How boring would Thanksgiving be if we didn’t break bread with our weird relatives? I mean, come one, no one actually plays football on the front lawn while the food is cooking like normal people do they?

And what about the stragglers? Or as I lovingly refer to them, the inhabitants of the Island of Misfit Toys. There’s Bob. We love Bob. Bob has no partner, no children, no relatives anyone can identify. He belongs to no social groups and the one he tried to join asked him politely to leave. He comes to Thanksgiving dinner every year in his plaid suit jacket complete with elbow patches. He sports the infamous comb over now beginning under his ear instead of above it. What I can’t figure out is why he brings his briefcase with him. I don’t ask. I just show him to his spot next to Aunt Sally. At least he doesn’t eat with his hands. Though he does allow the gravy to touch the cranberry sauce so he can’t sit next to the sensible one. We tried that once. It ended badly.

I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving’s display of weird relatives. It’s only at Thanksgiving that I am serenaded by the constant sucking of one’s teeth. I’ll keep that relative nameless. They read the blog.

So, faithful reader, who will be sitting at your Thanksgiving table this year? And please provide pictures.

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Thankful for the Grocery Store

He tasted better than he looked.
He tasted better than he looked.

I host Thanksgiving every year and this year was no different. I love having my family come over. We watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade together and sister Kiki and I prepare most of the dinner. Except, I have to make the turkey because he usually  needs to get in the oven before anyone arrives. It shouldn’t surprise you that touching an uncooked turkey sceeves me out. I hate sticking my hand inside that bird and pulling out those disgusting things wrapped in paper. I mean, come on, the turkey wasn’t born with paper in it’s orifice. Why wrap up its giblets and stick them back just so I have to pull it out? And all that red blood. Yuk. It occurred to me while preparing this year’s turkey, I should be thankful for grocery stores. Imagine if we had to hunt the turkey, defeather it, behead it, clean it and then cook it? If all that stuff was left up to me no one would have eaten. Ever. And what about ovens? I bet the pilgrims didn’t pull open a door and stick the turkey in a preheated oven from Whirlpool. Did they build a fire in the back of their log cabin and stick the bird on a skewer? Thank God for grocery stores. That’s all I’m saying.

My aunt and uncle went to Italy in the 1980s to visit the village where our family is from. It’s insulting if you don’t let my family cook for you. No big surprise there. My relatives, in their primitive village, didn’t have ovens in their homes in the 1980s. They cooked over a grate in the floor and they sat on the floor to do it. Can you imagine? I am thankful I was born in 19 – well, in 20th century America instead of any time in the past 100 years in southern Italy.

My Italian relatives didn’t have screens on their windows either. They didn’t care if the bugs came in or the cows. You could be sitting down to dinner, on the floor next to the grate I’m assuming, it probably doubled as the heating vent, and ole Bessy the cow would come sauntering in the door without a screen on it and she’d saddle right up to the cooking vent and drop in her seasoning of chewed up grass.

When my great-grandmother came to America in the 1930s to join her husband, bringing my teenage grandfather with her, she took all the screens off the windows of their home. Someone said to her, “if you take the screens down the flies will come in.” Her response: “If they come in, they have a way to get out.” How do you argue with that logic? After some time in America my great-grandmother begged her husband to return her to her village in Italy. Once she got home she decided she wanted to return to America. She must’ve missed the screens and the oven. Probably the grocery store too. Just saying.

What’s On Your Bucket List?

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The Coffee King and I were out to dinner the other night with friends. A cute, little hole in the wall, where the owner takes your order and brings your food. The menu? Italian, of course. Talking over baked ravioli smothered with mozzarella cheese you can stretch and twirl around your fork, my friend Lisa and I were discussing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I told her, “I’ve always wanted to go to that. It’s on my bucket list.” We’re going next year.

Do you want to see the world? Learn another language? Play an instrument? Write a book, perhaps?

My list is long and strange at times. I want to sing in front of thousands of people while wearing leather pants. I’ve always wanted to be a rock star, but I can’t sing and I don’t play an instrument and at my age, no one wants to see me on stage if they couldn’t benefit from watching me in my twenties.

On my list is take singing lessons and learn to play the drums, piano and violin. It might not be too late to go on tour. Heck, if the Van Halen brothers can still do it pushing 60 why can’t I? Who cares if they didn’t see me in my twenties. I’m still cute. Just older. (I can talk myself in and out of anything. I think it’s a disorder.)

I want to learn to speak Italian fluently and not the dialect from the village of my crazy family. Though, how can’t you love a word like “Zingada?” You’re not getting that in any Italian text book, let me tell you.

I always wanted a dog. Check. photo 1 (7)

Graduate school. Check.

Publish a book. Double Check.

Book Two in the Gabriel Hunter Series
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Be a best selling author. No check, but I’m not out of the game yet, though I do need the help of others on this one.

One of the things on my list was learn to drive a stick shift. I bought a car with manual transmission in 1997. That forced me to get good at it because now my car and the Coffee King’s car were both sticks. I felt like the cool kid in the cool club. And my heart swells a little with pride when someone slides into the passenger seat next to me for the first time and says, “you can drive a stick?” Yup, I’m that cool. I sold that stick shift in 2001. Noodge 1 was 8  months old and my car was too small for all his stuff. Plus Noodge 2 showed up about a year after. Oh, the sacrifices we make for our children. But the Coffee King holds true to himself. His car today is a stick so I can still be cool from time to time.

I like checking things off my list too. Feels like I’m accomplishing something. My life is fuller, my mind broader, anything is possible.

So tell me, faithful reader, what’s on your list?