Home For The Holidays: Cornbread, Cranberries and Chaos!
Autumn is quite possibly by far the most magnificent of all the seasons.
It is the time of year when change is imminently upon us, and painted across the landscape in vivid colors of crimson, green, and gold.
The house smells blissfully delicious of cinnamon and warm apple pie spice.
As you breathe in deeply, the scent of Thanksgiving takes you back to childhood; where the grass was always greener, the sky was a bit bluer and heaven was just one, succulent, mouthwatering slice away!
Our family is a diverse, predominantly patriarchal group consisting of my father, a conservative Republican and reverent Yankees fan; his first cousin, a liberal Democrat and die hard Mets fan; and of course, the outlaw, his brother-in-law through marriage, a Boston Red Sox fan.
By now, I am certain you can feel the love, joy and warmth which permeate the room at holiday dinners pulsing through your veins. Yes, there is nothing more comforting than celebrating all that we have for which to be thankful, with those nearest and dearest to our hearts.
Each year, the week before Thanksgiving, the family gathers at our home in Florida, for a weekend of sun, fun, fishing, and of course, a little male bonding.
As always, the first to arrive is Aunt Marie, Uncle Jack and their two adorable, fair-haired, and blue-eyed, Boston Proper children, proudly donning their bright new Red Sox baseball caps.
As my dad removes the boys’ caps and messes up their flaxen hair, the exchange of warm greetings begins:
“For the love of Christ, Jack, talk about misguided youth! Marie, you let your kids wear these hats? What happened, four years at B.U. and you forget where you come from?”
Without missing a beat, Uncle Jack retorts, “No Joey, your sister just saw the light and chooses to worship the true baseball gods!”
“Don’t speak that blasphemy in my home, Jack,” my father briskly riposted.
Perhaps the baseball gods were listening, and decided to temper the mood with a bit of comic relief as the doorbell rang.
Cousin Mike was casually waiting for a response. He was patient and didn’t seem to mind waiting for my father (who was taking his time) to make his way to the door. Cousin Mike is laid back and easy going; he does not quite possess the New York City gregariousness of my dad or the Boston swagger of Uncle Jack.
Through the artfully crafted etched glass panels of the solid oak door, my father could see Cousin Mike’s oddly shaped torso dressed in worn blue jeans, white tennis shoes and a clean but clearly worn New York Mets baseball jersey.
“Oh Geez,” grunted my father, “speaking of blasphemous! Hey Mikey, I wouldn’t want you to go out of your way to look presentable, what are you saving your good pair of slacks for anyway?”
“Your funeral, Joey,” laughed Cousin Mike.
“I want to look good so I can’t start dating your wife before your body gets cold; we figured we would cash in your life insurance policy for season tickets at Citi Field,” he snickered.
“Yeah, keep dreaming, that’s about as likely to happen as your Mets winning the World Series!” my father replied sarcastically.
Dad and Uncle Jack shared a laugh in a rare moment of unity and together, the three men headed toward the bar.
My dad ignites the conversation, “So, Mike, how old is your boy now, 27? If I’m not mistaken that would be the same number of championship rings the Yanks have, by the way, would it not?”
Rolling his eyes, Cousin Mike replies, “Yeah, Joey and your daughter is what, 22 now, that would be about the same as your IQ, would it not?”
My father blatantly ignored his comment, as if to show Mike that his statement made about as much impact as his team made all season. Instead, he sets his sights on Uncle Jack, whom he considers to be a more worthy opponent. “So Jackie, what happened to your Red Sox?"
“Don't start, Joe!" My mother interrupted. “It’s time for dinner anyway,” she added.
Food and drink are about the only things taken more seriously than sports amongst the men in our family. The table was set in what appeared to be a feast fit for royalty!
My mother insists that we say grace and give thanks for the abundant meal we are about to receive. And, just as fans eagerly anticipate the last note of the National Anthem, so does my family await the word Amen, so that alas, we may let the games begin!
Uncle Jack compliments my mother, “Everything looks delicious as usual, Anne.”
Before my mother can respond, my father adds, “Take your time and enjoy it all, Jack, I get concerned for your health when you eat too quickly.”
Curiously, but half-expecting the punch line, Uncle Jack inquired, “Really, and why is that, Joe?”
My father continued, “Well, I know how you Bostonians are so prone to choking!”
“Apparently not as much as New Yorkers are prone to bragging,” Uncle Jack gingerly responded.
Just as cousin Mike was about to spiral into raucous laughter, Uncle Jack added, “Oh, don’t worry Mike, I’m sure we can find a pacifier for your team, since they’re so naturally inclined to sucking!”
My mother looks over at Aunt Marie and says, “You know, that Johnny Damon is awfully handsome.”
Aunt Marie smiles and nods in silent agreement, when Uncle Jack interrupts, “When you think about it, Annie, Damon and Joey have a lot in common, so I can see the attraction!”
Innocently, my mother replies, “Really, Jack? I don’t think they look at all alike.”
“Well no,” continues Uncle Jack, “but when you think about it, they’re both washed up, over the hill, no talent bums!”
“Yeah, that’s really funny Jack, washed up, no talent bum, that’s funny stuff there, kind of like David Ortiz, right?” my father rapid-fire replied.
At this point, Cousin Mike, the Mets fan, knows it’s best to just lay low!
Uncle Jack sits back in his chair and loosens his collar before saying, “You’re honestly going to try to compare that backstabbing traitor, Johnny Damon to Big Papi? Come on, Joey!”
Leaning forward, my father antagonizes, “What was Ortiz’s batting average again this season, hot shot?”
“I don’t recall that number offhand, all-star, but it might be the same number you get when you average out the number of Joba’s DUI’s with his mom’s. Class act team, you got there, Joe, let me tell ya, top shelf!” Uncle Jack rebukes, as he settles comfortably back into his chair.
“Guys, do we have to go through this every year?” my mother pleads.
Just then, the doorbell rings and we get a slight reprieve. I invited my new beau to join us; I figured this was as good a time as any to meet the family.
Jason enters confidently and extends his hand to my father, who proceeds to introduce him to the rest of the gang.
“So, Jason… I understand you’re from Phoenix?” my dad asks in an engaging tone.
“Yes, sir, I am,” Jason respectfully replied.
“Diamondbacks?” Uncle Jack asks, almost amused.
“I’m originally from Cincinnati, I’m actually a Reds fan,” Jason stated proudly.
“Ah yes, the Reds, home of the legendary Pete Rose,” as Cousin Mike finally makes his way back into the conversation.
“Yup, regardless of his checkered past, Pete’s still one of my heroes,” Jason admitted.
“Would you be willing to say he’s one of the best to ever play the game?” asked Mike.
“I sure would!” says Jason.
“Wanna bet?” asks Uncle Jack tauntingly.
“Yeah, because I’ve never heard that one before,” remarks Jason good humouredly.
Again, my mother interrupts, “Can you guys please talk about something other than baseball? Really, you’ve been at this for hours!”
Uncle Jack agrees, “I’m sorry Annie, you’re right. So, Joey, how ‘bout those Patriots?”
“Need I remind you of how our Giants massacred your Patriots two years ago, Jack?” my father countered.
“Need I remind you of the Giants performance this season?” snaps Uncle Jack.
“You know if the Jets could just . . .”
Dad and Uncle Jack in unison, “Shut up, Mike!”
My mother turns her attention to Aunt Marie, smiles and whispers: “I’ll trade you Johnny Damon back for that beautiful Kevin Youkilis!”
Sweet Aunt Marie looks down, casually takes her knife to the turkey, looks back up and says, “Don't make me cut you, Annie!”
Happy Holidays to you and yours and have a blessed Thanksgiving!
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