When I was a small child, my family would circulate the responsibility of hosting the big, traditional Thanksgiving dinner among the elders of the family. One year we might be at my parent’s home, the next at my Godmother’s place, the next at my grandparent’s.
One year we ended up at Nana and Papa’s house. They had cooked a feast together, and we were all seated at the large dining room table, eagerly anticipating the glorious food that awaited us. After the big turkey reveal came several side dishes, including my Papa’s specialty-creamed onions with bacon cracklings. He and I looked forward to this dish. We were both confirmed onion and bacon lovers.
After many painstaking hours of peeling the tiny onions, he had made a velvety cream sauce and crispy bacon topping. My mouth was watering as he brought the dish to the table.
That year, they had installed very plush, very thick brown shag carpeting throughout the house. It was dark, very fluffy, and if you scooted just right on it, you could get an electric shock when you touched someone. (Hey, it was the 1970’s!) Apparently the carpet was so thick that Papa’s slipper caught it just right, causing him to trip and tumble towards the table-and he ended up spilling the entire contents of the lovely creamed onions meant for our tummies onto the brand new chocolate brown carpeting!
After making sure he was okay and didn’t get burned, he started to laugh very hard. “I’m such a turkey!” he bellowed, with a big smile on his face. He was embarrassed, and laughed it off. Papa always took little foibles in stride like that.
In my family’s typical fashion, we cleaned up the mess, and to make him feel better as we all tucked in for dinner, we told stories of how we had all had little personal mess-ups like the one he just experienced. A tradition was born! Year in and year out, on Thanksgiving day after dinner, we’d repeat the telling of stories of how we had done goofy things. Turkey Of The Year as dinner conversation would remain a constant in my childhood, and we looked forward to it every year. My sister and I are very competitive about this family tradition, to this day-even though we are in our forties and fifties and have grown kids of our own.
In the decades that followed that fateful night, being an artistic family, we would collaborate and make prizes for the best story. My favorite prize was a huge bowling trophy that Papa engraved for me the year I split my pants on the playground at school. We took life’s little screw ups and turned them into a fun thing, celebrating our human-ness through self-deprecating humor and relating with love. As a result, I am rarely embarrassed as an adult, and as I grew my family, had the awesome opportunity to teach my kid how to laugh off life’s little mistakes and have a healthy perspective of oneself.
I love my family, and do sorely miss my Papa and his fantastic creamed onions.
Have a lovely holiday tomorrow!