Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Thanksgiving Story

I’ve been attending holidays with my husband’s family for about 15 years now. Up until this year, when Christmas will be at our place, my mother-in-law (MIL) has traded holidays back and forth with her sister-in-law (Auntie L); if one had Christmas one year, the other did Thanksgiving, and then they’d switch the following year.

In the year of which I write, Auntie L had Thanksgiving duty. Now, one of the things you need to understand about my parents-in-law is that they are very keen on formality. They like to have things be proper and respectable and, for them, that means something slightly below high tea with the queen.

As an integral part of this need for nicety, both of my in-laws have a pretty deep-seated disdain for television, particularly when there’s company around. What you should also understand is that my MIL’s brother, Uncle T, does NOT share this particular trait. As a matter of fact, it is true that there is a television in very nearly every room of his house. It is also true that Uncle T and his grown son love football (which makes me love them that much more!). Keep these things in mind as I tell you my story.

My father-in-law has a lovely tradition of putting little kernels of dried corn on everyone’s empty plate just before Thanksgiving dinner. We all stand behind our chairs while he talks of the very first Thanksgiving, of the struggles faced by the first settlers, and of how remarkably fortunate we are to have all of the wonders we enjoy. It’s a lovely tradition, and it chokes me up every time.

Well, this year, there was a particularly good football game going on just as dinner was about to be served. I was in the living room with the men, enjoying the game, when I heard the call to gather in the dining room. Dad went around and sprinkled the corn on everyone’s plate and Auntie L, her daughter Cousin A, MIL, FIL and I stood behind our chairs and waited for the men (my husband, his twin, Cousin C, and Uncle T) to come in to eat.

When it became obvious that the men had missed the call (yeah, right, they missed the call...), I went in to round them up. They were hanging on the proverbial edges of the seats - they knew they had to come in, but the game was this close to being over and it was a good, tight game. When I returned to the dining room (without the men), I found my FIL sweeping all the corn back into the bag and muttering under his breath. MIL had a stern look of disapproval on her face, turned to her husband, and assured him that “Christmas is at OUR house this year.”

It was a very tense Thanksgiving dinner.

Fast forward a month. The Uncle T family was expected at MIL’s place around noon or so, and Husband, Twin and I arrived early so that we could help with dinner preparations. One of the first things I noticed as I put gifts under the tree is that the television had been physically removed from the living room. It was gone! They’d taken it off of its table and hidden it. Seriously.

But that’s not the funny part.

Uncle T and the gang arrive, and the present-opening commences. Auntie L saved Uncle T’s “big” present for last. Three guesses what it was.

Yep. A portable television set. I kid you not. Uncle T spent the better part of half an hour tuning it to see what he could get from his sister’s living room. Luckily for all involved, he could only pull in the local PBS station - his reception was not strong enough to pick up the Christmas day football game, though it wasn’t for lack of trying.

I had all I could do to not choke on my eggnog.



Blogger Kizz said...

How was the corn speech? Did it move you to tears this year, too?

11:30 PM  
Blogger lolololo said...

What do you do with the corn after the speech? Throw it at the squirrels?

I grew up in a home drapped in formality too. Formal wear and formal dining with several courses and lots of drinking so I can relate to the holiday football T.V. stories. It was never formally allowed, but very carefully snuck esp. after a few cocktails.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

Sadly, there was no corn speech this year. I'm not sure why - Dad may have figured that no one was listening anyway - they're all too busy talking about football to listen. I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who noticed that we skipped the corn bit. And usually, Meg, the corn got swept back into a bag and saved for next year. Much like the plum pudding....

6:09 PM  

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