Photo from https://commons.m.wikimedia.org
By Carly Gassman
I first knew Thanksgiving as the year (or day?) I heard the story of how my grandparents met. Plied with liquor, loose-lipped and liberated from any incurring embarrassment this disclosure might normally elicit. My petite, unassuming grandmother laid the whole scene bare and left us all roaring.
Both in their late twenties, dragged out in the undertow with the rest of the other drunken bar-hoppers. It was through the same loss of inhibitions that they became acquainted. My homely, nurturing, clean-cut grandmother ended up losing the hoop of her layered skirt, throwing up in the bathroom and consequentially resting on the lap of a strange man, whom she later married.
She was in a bit of a pickle when it came to getting the car back home, but she was in luck! The friend that had driven there could “only drive drunk,” so rest assured the return trip was swathed in safety.
Thanksgiving exists for such tender moments. Sitting around that extended rectangular table with the ash-wood inserts that only got put in for hosting such crowds. I learned more than I ever had about my family. It was between bites of hot, flavorful mash, turkey and fried cauliflower that I came to understand my origins, tendencies and familial quirks.
Thanksgiving means different things to different people—depending on the timbre of your family discussions and the varying traditions you may employ. For my grandma, it’s a chance to get everyone together and bless the meal, leading everyone in prayer. For my father, it’s an opportunity to test out his pie-making skills and grab a beer with his brother. For me, it’s the observance of all of these sacred individual rights, and making the connections to understand the roundabout family dynamic.
In the end, what it mostly comes down to is familial unity—sharing a good meal, a conversation and catching up with those you aren’t normally able to see.
By the way, my family is Syrian. My grandma, as always, proclaimed how thankful and lucky she was that her parents came to America before she was born. If they hadn’t, our whole family could be in jeopardy or nonexistent with the state of things now. Please keep the suffering and casualties of others in consideration this holiday season as you enjoy your families, food and the amenities that we so often take for granted.
This year, I decided to pay homage to my diverse, kitschy family by highlighting this year’s best anecdotes, quotes and one-liners:
1. Wanted: Elderly Jewel Thieves
As the conversation segued from our recent trip to a local market to that of another relative’s, it took a turn for the felonious. My grandmother’s sister was modeling a 24-karat gold and diamond Arab snake bracelet in the midst of a Middle Eastern market when her husband decided a ring would be better suited. Finishing up their shopping, getting some pita bread and lunching across town, it wasn’t until several hours later on the drive home that she glanced down at her left wrist again.
In the end, the thousand-dollar-bracelet did get returned, but the memory would not be erased. Just as the dust was settling, my wise-cracking great-aunts and uncles made a point to mail her “WANTED” ads they’d made up for her, with her face plastered all over them.
2. Dad the Professor:
“I wonder how many Adele’s there will be in my classroom in 13 years.”
3. Uncle Who Won’t Relinquish His Youth
“I’m not 26, but I have a corn on my foot that’s 26.”
4. Anal Cysts: We were all blessed and thankful this year when my sister decided to mention, in the midst of the meal, that her cyst is all better now. A well-meaning uncle inquired about its whereabouts and progress. We learned that the infected, swollen lump had drained all on its own. Though, it was the most excruciating pain she’d ever experienced. We then got to hear the laundry list of everyone else’s concerning and dehumanizing health conditions.
5. Proof that My Glamorous, 80-Something Great-Aunt is the Real MVP: “It’s been decades since I’ve seen my classmates, but I’m not sentimental. Really you have nothing in common with these people.”
This punchy statement came after her new husband, bound to the constant stream of football pouring into the living room, mentioned he’d met up with an old classmate after 64 years. Sitting at the edge of the table in between the sports-fueled men in one room and the women enjoying wine and dessert in the next, I heard the best notes of both conversations.
As he spoke wonders about the joys of seeing someone from your past after so long and the great memories it conjured up, she simultaneously rebutted every word.
“The nerve of that woman. She brought up her uterine issues while on the phone with him! Can you imagine! ‘Hey, haven’t seen you in 64 years,’ and she talks about her plumbing!”
In symphony, he beamed from within, recounting the great reunion and all the reminiscences they shared. Studded into every one of his optimistic and eloquent soliloquies was a biting refutation from my great aunt. “I should’ve told her about my uterus!”
6. Acute Angina:
This couple proved to steal the show when they recited almost-rehearsed banter. It really is an art, I’ve noticed, of displaying your relationship as cutesy and fun-poking. Over time, couples get better, and I can only imagine it’s because of the recurring rehearsal, the same anecdotal jibes perfected over the years.
My white haired, bejeweled, fox of a great-aunt was recounting and laughing about the joke on her 80th birthday card: “And so the doctor says to the angry-looking woman, ‘you know, I only said you have acute angina!’” Hysterics, as you can imagine.
Her husband approaches just in time to deliver his seemingly prepared one-liner, “You know, if the truth gets out, they’re all cute!”