In the afterglow of perhaps the most tense familial gathering of the year, I thought I’d paint you a picture of turkey day at the Berry house:
The under-30’s (and Alli – sorry, I had to!) drag out of bed, deeply hungover from a Wednesday night full of high-school encounters and cheap beer. We assemble ensembles that make us look like the respectable youngsters our grandparents know we are (and our parents know we aren’t.) One by one we traipse downstairs and make the rounds to greet the scattered family members.
First I encounter my grandmother, who asks if my hair is a wig. It is not; it is merely very long and very blonde, and I don’t wear it down much so it looks surprisingly abundant. This is particularly strange because just the previous day while sporting a milkmaid braid, a customer at work asked if I was wearing “a hair-piece.” Is this a sign I should go back to brown?
Next up I say hello to my grandfather. He is wearing a jacket and tie, the poor man. I am wearing elastic-waist leggings and a decidedly tent-shaped sweater. It’s Thanksgiving – duh. He informs me that despite the half dozen cakes that are currently cooling in the garage, he has also brought black-and-whites from La Bonne Boulangerie on Long Island, which he always does, and which are always amazing.
I am somehow able to pry my Aunt Petie from my mother’s clutches. I shout a tentative “Happy Thanksgiving” at Brigitte from a safe distance from the kitchen. Aunt Petie and I hug; it is all very normal, and she is the level-headed anchor of the family.
My elusive father is to be found in the den, which is sort of the furthest room in our house from any possible “action.” He and I discuss his recent completion of A Clash of Kings, the second Game of Thrones book, and try not to get in trouble. It’s never easy.
Sometime around 2 the dinner is served. This meal time has been getting earlier every year, and at this rate in about a decade we’ll be eating at a normal dinner hour… on Wednesday. In any event, I’m pretty hungry, and crack my plastic plate under the weight of my stuffing and green-bean casserole, et cetera. We seem to have found the perfect storm of wine to manage to pull this day off without any fights, a shocker for the Berrys. (Backstory: a couple years ago, the stuffing caught fire in the oven and a massive panic ensued. Having been raised in a classic non-confrontational environment, my sister and I announced that we would *both* run upstairs to open the windows and vent the smoke, then waited until an all-clear to come back down.)
After dinner the women-folk clean. Somehow as the baby of the family I have evaded this duty for my whole life. I am probably also thought to be incapable; it’s the same reason my mother still won’t let me do a load of laundry even though I’m 23 and live at home. Alli has diplomatic immunity born of Adam and Vicky being her guests, so we retreat to good TV, that other great American tradition. The four of us and my dad watch a few minutes of the Lions game, but get over that quick and are forced to choose between American Horror Story and Homeland, which are the only options Bill offers us. Alli immediately scornes AHS, and lucky for her the first episode is no longer on demand, so Homeland it is. This show has never seemed like my cup of tea, but suffice it to say we will spend the rest of the weekend devouring it.
After that it’s gifts, because, as you see, this is also Alli’s 30th birthday. Most are a hit, until Petie gives her a book on Derek Jeter and our grandmother tries to say something about Adam but Freudian slips and calls him Derek. OUCH.
Later some stragglers fall asleep, and the rest of us play a card game called Five Crowns. My dad walks by and says, “Are you guys gonna play Five Kings?” Alli corrects him and I say, “You’re thinking of the War of the Five Kings!” Alli says, “Is that a Game of Thrones joke?” She looks at us like D&D nerds. #Missingout. In the background my grandparents are “watching” the Hallmark channel. The same movie has seemingly been on all day, and my grandmother is fast asleep as a testament to its merit. Even my grandfather, who normally loves those sort of old snoozers, is dragging. Someone at one point asks what that is and Adam offers, “Sarah, Plain and Tall.” We all crack up, and Alli asks if that’s a real thing or a joke. It is real, and it is really on. And really awful. It will be a running joke for months to come, and no one else will be able to appreciate the dire humor of Sarah, Plain and Tall.
Eventually, as midnight nears, all the real people go to sleep and I go to work. Thanks… for nothing.