Like a regular visitation from a dear relative, that same Adam Sandler turkey song comes drifting through the radio, and I am surprised that another year has passed – that another wave of rolls and cranberry sauce is on its way and, with it, those ancient Thanksgiving traditions. My family isn’t much for tradition from the get-go; my mother dyed her hair pink for expensive family portraits, and we once spent Christmas Eve alone at a theatre watching “Psycho.” But the one thing we remain unknowingly adamant about each year is this chaotic sense of humor about how every turkey goes up in flames (we’ve had many) and every influx of small children tying shoelaces together under the table.
We have long had a sense of absurdity about the mere implication that, maybe, one holiday will pass with little fanfare. From the time I sent the kitchen up in flames making mozzarella sticks (there was a fire truck, a screaming fire alarm and lots and lots of smoke) to the time the mangy dog got sprayed by a skunk, there has always been something. As oblivious as we often are of the impending disaster barreling our way, the best of this unwitting attitude is displayed by my grandmother. Each year, we get the same slew of questions: “How old are you now? What school do you go to?” and the persistent “Do you have a boyfriend yet?” And yet she somehow manages to whip out a whole new fiasco. Last November, it was the roast left in our unused bottom oven for so long that it grew itself new vegetables. This year it will be something new.
And yet every year we watch her take the first bite like some unrecognized ritual. She fusses with her napkin, she daintily manages her knife and she always complains the bird is underdone. Even with all her nagging and her penchant for mistakenly mixing Jell-O with mashed potatoes, she primly closes her mouth, chews and looks around with that delicate smile, taste testing the food for us to make sure nothing is amiss.
She long ago lost her memory. We first noticed a cycle of ceaseless questions. Then came the forgetting of pill dosages, the missing purse, the confusion over hair appointments. She steadily forgot where to find the laundry or how to operate the machine and just tumbled through washes again and again, never finding those clothes dry.
But, somehow, we still rely on her to give us that first indication that Thanksgiving will be fine this year. That, despite the kids with peas in their hair (namely my brother – he’s 21), the arguments that end with splattered gravy and the clever dog licking the scraps off the floor, this Thanksgiving will be just like any other: chaotic, frustrating and worth it every time.