Saturday, November 28, 2009

Scenes from a Thanksgiving

Only one month to recover for Xmas

All five of the great-grandchildren were present. So were all nine grandchildren. Mom & Dad had a full house of family members. By the time you added in the various spouses and the cousin with no place else to go, over two dozen people were jockeying for position at the dinner tables—of which there were three.

We have the big holiday meal in the middle of the day. As usual, it began without the benefit of either a starter's pistol or bowing our heads to say grace. (I am not complaining.) People started helping themselves as the heaping platters arrived on the tables and it was every man, woman, or child for him- or herself. Though, to be fair, some of the smaller family members were tucked in next to parents who fed them. Occasionally a dinner roll arced over the tables in response to a request. The bread-tossing irks me more than it probably should and I was considered a spoil-sport for merely handing someone a roll instead of tossing it to them.

The grandchildren and great-grandchildren ranged in age from 32 to zero. The newest grandchild is actually younger than some of the great-grandchildren. I said to the college-age niece sitting next to me that “We ought to consider putting nametags on all of them.” She sweetly replied, “Some of us aren't so old, Uncle Zee, that we can't keep track of the family members.”


Of course, when she later asked her beloved uncle to pass the mashed potatoes, I said, “Oh, honey, I'm afraid I'm too old to stretch out my arm that far.” We struck a truce and she got her potatoes.

Little B, one of the two-year-old great-grandsons, is in a babbling phase. He keeps up a semi-comprehensible running commentary on his activities and observations. There are occasional complications. Little B has learned the names of the dining utensils, but still has problems with pronunciation. His manner of saying “fork” is particularly unfortunate. He recently dropped his fork at a restaurant and burst out with “Oh, fork!” Every head in the place swiveled toward the apparently profane toddler while his father grinned and his mother turned bright red.

We were not treated to a re-enactment during Thanksgiving dinner and I think a few people were disappointed.

The family was all on its best behavior in honor of the holiday, so most snide remarks were politely delivered behind people's backs rather than to their faces. Dad occasionally forgets this rule, however, and delivers his blasts directly. When a family member noted the extremely crowded condition of Mom & Dad's dining area and suggested a change of venue next year to the large space of his enclosed back-porch recreation room, Dad was duly appreciative: “Yeah, that would be great. Just like eating in a barn.”

That's a kind of executive veto. The family member fell quiet for the rest of the meal.

Later people began to disperse to various locations in front of the television or outside in the yard. My parents observed that Little B's parents took turns accompanying him as he wandered amongst the leaves under the walnut tree and took delight in picking up and tossing random walnuts.

“They watch that kid every second,” they commented. “They hover over him like a hawk.”

It is their considered opinion that their great-grandson is being smothered by this overweening parental solicitude. They repeated this every time the parents moved out of earshot.

While Little B was playing under this oppressive supervision, his contemporary second cousin, Little Z, was strolling about while munching on a banana. Someone eventually noticed that he had discovered Mom & Dad's fly abattoir, a low bench next to the house on which they had sprinkled a thick layer of red crystal insecticide. In the fly-infested environment of a working dairy, it had quickly acquired piles of dead insects atop the poison crystals. Little Z stuck his banana into the mix. Who wouldn't like a banana with red sprinkles and dead flies?

Someone noticed before he could sample his confectionary creation. At least, we think it was before. His mother peered into his mouth for signs of red and interrogated the little man whether he had tasted the poison. Little Z denied that he had with a stubborn expression suggesting he wished he had acted more quickly. Thereafter he was watched as closely as Little B. It turned out that Little Z was still able to play despite the fact that people had their eyes on him.

I suggested to my parents that they relocate their fly trap out of the reach of their great-grandchildren. They professed surprise that toddlers would go anywhere near it.

Who are these people?


jd2718 said...

Here it is! I was looking for your Thanksgiving post.

I came back from an unpleasant encounter with coerced thanks-giving, and ran here, hoping you'd have some perspective that would take the edge off.

Very cute, of course. And good for you, not to have been the target this time...

(although I was searching for a similar experience, for some pretend empathy... hey, cute is good)


Zeno said...

Jonathan, I am pleased to have rewarded your patience, even if our experiences weren't exactly parallel this year.

Sili said...

If it's any consolation, I couldn't recall names nor faces of my family members, when I was young and they were alive.

Interesting to see that you're not a singular they user.

jd2718 said...

And I doubled back, and I hit your "say grace" link, and realized you'd roped me in last year. Minerva and Barry had neat stuff in the comments. That's what I wanted to reread! I just didn't remember it.


ShockedISaid said...

Ah, yes, fork.

When my son was at that age, he pronounced "firetruck" as "firef**k". He would shout out his version of firetruck every time one passed by, which in L.A. was quite often. Being the caring, nurturing parents, we were, my wife and I did everything we could to encourage his behavior. He would bellow out "firef**k" quite often in public. No one was ever offended; they just laughed heartily.

Zeno said...

Thanks to Little B, my family is going through a phase where people feel they can get away with ending arguments with "Fork you!" So far it's been causing people to break into laughter, so perhaps it's not such a bad thing. I just don't think it will last.

llewelly said...

My own parents - and to a lesser extent my grandparents - had a regrettable tendency to leave dangerous things out where the toddlers could get at them. My father frequently stored anti-freeze in old 2 liter soda-pop bottles. In case you're wondering, it tastes sweet and refreshing. Don't *EVER* leave that stuff where a child or a dog might get to it, because, as I say, it tastes good, despite being moderately poisonous. My father also spent a great deal of time melting down lead wheel weights on the kitchen stove. This would make the whole house smell of molten lead for about half a day (longer in the winter).

Porlock Junior said...

OT, but I have to note this:

At Lawyers, Guns & Money a commenter made a remark, a rather silly one, accusing people who don't like Polanski of xenophobia among other things. But his spelling ain't tu gude.

Leading to a reponse from DocAmazing,
Zenophobia? Is that when you're afraid to travel because you'll never quite make it there?

But I suppose you get people making jokes about your name all the time, eh Mr. Smokestoomuch?

The Ridger, FCD said...

My father said, jokingly, "Nobody's grateful?" when we began without grace (an oddity, but he's the last of us to lose his religion...)

My sibs, niece, and I all immediately chimed in: "We're grateful to the farmers" "and truck drivers" "and grocers" "and bakers" "and Clarence Birdseye!"

And so we are.

Interrobang said...

The child with the pronunciation problem is an obscene toddler, not a profane toddler. That particular word is, since it hails from among the species of maledictions that has everything to do with bodily functions and nothing to do with blasphemy, an obscenity.

Jus' sayin', although I must admit (pedantically) that the use of "profanity" as a general term for expletives bothers me, since I consider profanities to be meaningless, and obscenities to be an example of society having its undergarments in a big uncomfortable knot...

Karen said...

We usually have the Thanksgiving feast at my in-laws, and they have a dreadful ritual of going around the table and insisting everyone say what they're thankful for this year. It's probably intended to be inclusive of the non-believers at the table, but it's long and repetitive, and always ends with saying a prayer anyhow.

This year the in-laws went to visit faraway relatives, and the rest of us gathered for a buffet dinner. No rituals! It was wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Have you heard the Stephanie Miller bit where the kid says "George Bush is a dumptruck!"?

Anonymous said...

The english language evolves and the term "profanity" now refers to swearing and so-called "bad" language.

Dawn said...

Ah, yes. Toddler language. My then-boyfriend and I had my 3 year old cousin, C, in the car as we drove from his house to my parents. C had a new haircut and I asked him where he got his hair cut. His answer: "Mommy gave me a blow job".

I nearly drove off the road!

After 3 repetitions of the comment I figured out he was saying "bowl job"...his mother had put a bowl on his head and cut his hair the old-fashioned way. But D and I laughed the rest of the trip!

Escuerd said...

"The bread-tossing irks me more than it probably should and I was considered a spoil-sport for merely handing someone a roll instead of tossing it to them."

I think you'd be most disappointed to see what has happened to dinners at your old college house (if I correctly inferred which one it was from one of your earlier posts).

Bread is thrown aggressively just about every day.

Escuerd said...

Oh, and Karen, they did that this year when I had Thanksgiving too. When it came to the first atheist among us (there were a few), a discussion ensued about how they needed to express what they're thankful for even if the thanks wasn't directed toward anyone. It never even got around to me as the ritual was effectively derailed at that point.

Zeno said...

Escuerd, I don't have too much trouble making allowances for the behavior of college students at a high-stress institution of higher learning. Bun-tossing among young people is a pretty mild form of letting off steam.

Of course, I preferred it when the dinner rolls were used as projectiles to bombard nearby Pasadena City College. That was a more creative use of ellipsoidal chunks of bread.