November 20, 2012

Category: Real Talk

Getting Through The Ins & Outs of Thanksgiving

Without fail Thanksgiving always brings on a certain amount of stress, confusion and anticipation in my life. The day after Halloween when snack candy packs are half-price and Wonder Woman costumes are going for $5, I know that the time has come to ask my mom the BIG question: “What are we doing for Thanksgiving this year?” I never have an inkling as to what the answer will be, but I am fully aware of the angst that usually follows in its wake. Cooking dinner, or should I say preparing the feast, for my fam is kinda like that show “Chopped.” We all want the family to be together to have the grandest Thanksgiving ever, but often we struggle to assemble all the crazy ingredients that make up our family dynamics. Instead of finding cow tongue, marshmallows and kiwi fruit in our respective familial picnic boxes there’s an odd mix of big holiday dreams, tight budgets, restrictive diets and huge southern pork fat longings not to mention distance and travel all wedged-in together.

My mom held down Thanksgiving duties for as long as I can remember. She would cook up a banquet’s bounty of food— her famously good macaroni & cheese, turnip greens, sweet potato pie, string beans, turkey and spiral ham. Playing a supportive role, my dad, sister and I would dust, vacuum and clean our behinds off. By 6pm my aunts and any boyfriends in the picture at the time would’ve arrived and daddy would begin to play one of his Isaac Hayes albums. It was a moment. The stress and drama of getting it all done would melt and we would laugh, eat til we couldn’t move and then we’d watch football and a movie and then dip back into the kitchen to help wash dishes and nibble on a deviled egg or two. When my dad got sick in 2005 and later transitioned in 2007, the tenor of Thanksgiving drastically changed. The first holidays when he wasn’t around were awful. By the time “amen” was uttered at the end of Thanksgiving grace in 2007 everyone was sobbing. It has gotten better though. Like the Thanksgiving of 2008 when we all went to Charlotte, NC for my first Thanksgiving below the Mason Dixon. There had to be about 40 of us from Detroit, DC, Columbia, Cheraw, Spartanburg and Baltimore who had gathered at my cousin’s house. It was the first time I had fried turkey and the first time since my dad’s passing that I really enjoyed a family gathering. I had a ball. It was bittersweet, mostly sweet.

Since then we have gone to my aunt’s house, I’ve hosted once and so has my mom, but I know she’s getting tired of all the work involved and so are all of the “elders” in my fam. My mom answered my post-Halloween question in a huff last month: “I don’t know yet Nicole! We still have almost a month. Ease up.” Yep it’s become apparent that the time has come for my sis, my cousins and I to take on the responsibilities of hosting Thanksgiving dinner. And this, my friends, is where the drama and angst usually comes in. Frankly, we don’t have it together like they did. And we don’t want to be told how to do thangs cuz we got this son. Yeah, right. That’s why most of my peeps are ordering their turkeys and pies. We don’t have the time, most of us don’t have huge dining rooms and we’re scrambling to get our nails and hair done not the stuffing and collards. Never mind the majority of us who have re-educated ourselves to the atrocities of what Thanksgiving really is and how Native Americans were basically terrorized. Oh yes, the neo-nationalists, Malcolm X indoctrinated, 7 & a Crescent crew ain’t having it nor any country ham this Thursday.

Everything is a project beginning with the damn menu: no red meat for her, no bottom-crawlers for him, baby girl is allergic to nuts and auntie has sugar so watch how much sugar you put in those yams! Lawd, I do not remember my mom going through all these changes. If it were up to me I wouldn’t even have turkey at Thanksgiving. So what if the pilgrims had it! They also had cholera and host of other diseases. Do you want that too this Thanksgiving? Well I made the huge mistake in telling my mom this anti-turkey sentiment and she went straight Joe Biden on my ass this past weekend. There goes all that education getting in the way of tradition and family-ties again! So needless to say we will be having turkey, and in keeping it red-eye gravy real, I’m throwing in some pork in my pot of black-eyed peas. This will surely assuage the turkey tussle Ruby and I had on Saturday. When things go HAM, just serve ham! Ups and downs, yo! Ride em out.

This year I’m doing what my track coach in college taught me: “Keep your head down and just run your best race,” he would tell me. “Don’t worry about winning just run your best time and who knows your best time may be the winning time. At the very least it will be your best.” So even though my finances are tighter than ever and I’m still scrambling to get assignments in and still waiting on checks to pay the cable bill, I’m keeping my head down. Yams are already in the oven and my mom just called to say she’ll bring a sweet potato pie. I may even have time for a manicure tomorrow. Just trying to have my best time.

Dedication: I associate Thanksgiving with my mom and this month alone three people I know loss their beloved matriarchs so this post is for them: Sharon, Mickalene, & Havelock. Much love!

This post is also dedicated to the mother who lost her two sons in the rushing waves of Storm Sandy and also to the mom who lost her two children to the murderous hands of her trusted nanny.

Happy Thanksgiving Y’all!

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3 Responses to “Getting Through The Ins & Outs of ThanksgivingComment RSS feed

  • Camilla Marie
    November 20th, 2012 6:12 pm

    Did my eyebrows last night. Will be giving myself a pedicure and manicure tomorrow evening. looking forward to spending time with the family. Aunts and Uncles, cousins and grandparents…many of who I haven’t seen in years.

    Regarding the dietary restrictions: It was bound to happen.

  • Terri Wilkinson
    November 20th, 2012 9:33 pm

    My dear sweet sister, Nicole. You have a way with words that make me want to settle down with a glass of wine, prop my feet up, and sink into your posts like a warm bath. Your memories of Thanksgiving as a child bring back mirrored memories for me. We cleaned as if someone was going to wipe the blinds with a white glove! I loved each and every minute of it. The feeling of “this is special” permeated the air. It made the meal taste better because the rugs were shampooed. Having the family gathered at the table while the young uns sat at their table is a memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I never realized what work went into these gathering until I became a Mom and thought I could do it to. Our parents generation made it look so easy. Once the record player started to play, the drinks started to flow and the laughter began, all was right with the world. In reality, there is dust on my blinds, I am never really sure that the bird is cooked all the way through, and no matter what I do, the gravy (giblets included) is always a bit lumpy. But, as I sit in the kitchen on Friday, nibbling on the left over turkey, I can say I did my best. I do hope that my children will look back on our new traditions and think that I have it all together and that I made it look effortless. So, Happy Thanksgiving to you Nicole, I am truly thankful to call you my friend!

  • Shea McLeod
    November 21st, 2012 1:34 pm

    Absolutely brilliant Nicole. Just as clear and considered as always but with something extra to remind those pushed to their limit that who/what they are is enough. Thanksgiving is about relationships, strained or perfect, our new regard for contentment in the midst of chaos and our faith in God. I loved this piece and wish all of my American friends a wonderful and blessed experience.