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There is something about the late fall season that makes the family huddle of the Thanksgiving feast particularly appropriate. Maybe it is the cooler weather: at a hearthside with plenty of wood for the fireplace and the storm door on for the winter, we seem to sit closer together as we listen for the wind.
We no longer set up card tables in the corners of the dining room and wherever we could in the living room and in the front hall, too, as the family population grew. These satellite places were filled with the older of our own offspring and their cousins, while aunts and uncles took up the main table where their places were interspersed with the high chairs of the littlest ones. (From the present vantage point it is a bit difficult to realize that the youngster who spit up sweet potatoes on his aunt so many years ago is now County Prosecutor. Somehow, that just doesn't fit together.)
These days, there is no room in the "dining area" of our condo for card tables. Besides, we are invited to our daughter's for dinner. She and our son in- law have a large dining room—and a "great room" with a giant TV and a game room with a pool table that's used mostly to set things on. I don't think they own any card tables.
All of this reminds me of the year this same daughter, than a blooming 13 years of age or so, announced as dinner was served that she had become a confirmed vegetarian. I think her mother said something like "that's nice, dear," and went right on passing the green bean casserole while still holding the cover of the vegetable dish in one hand, looking for a clear space where she could put it down. The cover of her grandmother's vegetable dish had to be placed upside down. This would, hopefully, keep the condensed steam from spilling onto the tablecloth. This concern ignored the reality that within minutes the cloth would be decorated with cranberry sauce, brown gravy, overturned glasses of juice and wine, and the usual mishaps that come from combining a crowded table and children.
But the freshly announced vegetarian was not about to be ignored. "I don't see how…" She made her voice ring loud and clear throughout the house even overwhelming the clatter of everyone else. "I don't see how you can just sit there and eat the carcass of a dead animal. It would make ME sick!" Heavy emphasis on the "me" brought a momentary swiveling of heads. A couple of the younger children—girl cousins at the same card table—stopped chewing.
Her younger brother asked if he could have her drumstick. "You can have my green bean casserole," he offered. And when he laughed, she jumped from her chair to punch him.
Somehow in the hub-bub of portioning out the marshmallow topping for the sweet potatoes, along with the ritual turnips which everybody had to "at least try a couple bites" and the ultimate objectives of the pies for dessert, the vegetarian issue was overlooked. After all, it had been only the month before that the now-vegetarian had started calling herself "Stephanie." It took her mother and me a week to figure out that this was a socially upscale move: a frantic clinging to the sixthgrade ladder of social pecking order. Certainly "Stephanie" did sound a lot more limousine than "Mary" with which she'd been christened. And, I think we were right in figuring that entering junior high had a lot to do with it. Anyhow, "Stephanie" didn't last beyond Halloween.
We all had bacon for breakfast the morning after thanksgiving. I think Stephanie did, too, but I was already late getting off to work and I forgot to look.
Theodore Rickard is a freelance writer living in Yarmouth Port, MA.