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From fluffy mashed potatoes flanked by gravy boats to green beans, deviled eggs and Pillsbury croissants. Buttered corn, mac & cheese to name a few. The feast of the year, spread out over an extended dining room table surrounded by twelve chairs and one highchair.
All that was missing was the twenty pound bird, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins all waiting in anticipation while grandpa sat at the head of the table giving voice to their thinning patience.
“Bird is the word, haven’t you heard, thingamajigs at the table, how absurd.”
The thingamajigs grandpa spoke of, cell phones, palmed by all in attendance, only he and the youngest one with hands and mind free.
Finally grandma came inching her way into the dining room, balancing that huge Butterball with cautious steps below frail hips, trembling hands tightly grasping silver platter.
“Sure you don’t need a hand with that, ma?” someone spoke up.
“Sure as water is wet,” she insisted, her next wobbling step sending a ripple all the way up to the golden brown turkey and as a result causing it and grandma to do a little sway while gasps of shock rang out from around the table.
“Now, now, nothin’ da worry ’bout,” grandma assured.
Yet they waited with baited breath until she made her way over to grandpa, all exhaling at once when the shaky platter came to rest before him. But such relief was short-lived when they caught sight of grandpa’s equally shaking hand coming up with that huge knife in tow.
Again someone spoke up. “Sure you don’t need a hand with that, Pa?”
Unlike his ol’ Mrs., Pa had no tolerance for any lip.
“You’re not too old to get placed over this knee and shown a little respect. Mind yourself, boy.”
And with that everyone again could do nothing but watch as the turkey was carved in a fit of trembles, all hoping the tender juice trickling from its punctured skin would be the only thing hemorrhaging today.
Only after all had been served and the meat had lost a significant amount of its warmth did the table come back to life, fingers swiping, mouths chewing, no one taking note of this first two minutes of peace before the family tradition of bickering began to rear its ugly head.
“Have any predictions on the games today, dad?”
Grandpa looked up from his constant chewing. “Hell, with the impeachment trial and all haven’t had a chance to even see who’s playin’. I swear those Democraps know how to crap all over a man’s holiday season.”
“Now dad, we all agreed no politics today. Remember what happened last year.”
“Sure as hell do. They were lookin’ for somethin’ else to impeach about. Tits, twats, this, that.”
“It’s tweets, grandpa. They’re called tweets.”
“I call it speakin’ one’s mind. Back in my day you said what you mean and you mean what you said. No beatin’ around the bush. Today nothin’ but a bunch of pussyfoots.’
“Dad, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t talk that way in front of the kids. Things are different nowadays. We’re raising them differently than how you raised us.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean? I raised you just fine. Food in your mouth, clothes on your back, a backbone to speak your mind. How you raisin’ my grandkids? Always hunched over lookin’ at those damn thingamajigs.
“Over-sensitive, underdeveloped. They all look as pale as ghosts, goddamnit. Wouldn’t know how to climb a tree if their life depended on it.”
Aunt Mae stood up from her chair, silverware hitting her plate as she mumbled loud enough for all to hear, “I’ve lost my appetite,” and sighed her way out of the room. An annual habit she never missed to display, as every year turned into a dysfunctional match of my-ego-is-larger-than-thou.
Between the bites and swipes, chewing and fuming, insults were hurled, voices raised, peace no more.
Strangely enough this was when grandma and grandpa really settled into their meal, zoning out the madness around them and just enjoying it as they had done countless times before.
Halfway through and grandpa began carving the turkey again, grandma then taking the plate full of meat and heading round the table serving everyone seconds while ignoring the chaos.
When she got to the youngest, the one in the highchair her delicate balance was finally lost, the remaining meat and plate is sat upon crashing down atop the floor below. All went quiet.
Grandma was all right but the mess had been made, the tiny voice in the highchair the first to speak up.
For the first time all were speechless.
The little one looked down at grandma’s legs.
“That’s varicose, honey. Varicose,” his mother corrected.
“VeryGross,” the tiny voice repeated.
The whole family broke out into laughter, and thus began the tradition of Grandma VeryGross.
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