Thanksgiving is...cozy and welcoming with the spicy scent of brewing cider.
Thanksgiving is...stuffing your face with another mouthful, even though your stomach might burst.
Thanksgiving is...the culmination of all of the tastes of the season with the final bite transitioning a person into winter.
Bobtail's Sweet Potato Pie ice cream is...the taste of Thanksgiving, transporting me home. But rather than talk about this delicious flavor, I'm going to talk about family.
This year I spent fall break in Spain, staying with my friend Louise in Barcelona. Her friends organized a Thanksgiving dinner in honor of some folks who’d recently moved
from America. Half-expecting a paella-stuffed turkey, the meal was a delicious
and hilarious hodge-podge with a few vague parallels to American Thanksgiving,
like turkey being substituted with fried chicken. But, in a way, it was not unlike
most Thanksgiving dinners I’ve had since moving away from home, feeling both
joyous and incomplete. It feels as though the best any celebration could hope to be is second place because, for me, Thanksgiving is everyone packed in around the table during a crisp fall afternoon in Hampton, VA.
Growing up, I was lucky enough to live in the same city as one set of grandparents and my
aunt’s family. We all liked one another so much that we spent birthdays and holidays
together. Thanksgiving morning would start by giving gratitude at the
morning church service and end at my grandma’s house. Once there, my brother Brian
and I would ditch our ties and, while finishing touches were made on the food,
my cousin TR and I would help out by raking the yard. We would inevitably
finish leaf duty early and join my dad in the ritualistic sneaking of food from
Eventually after being shooed away from our dutiful taste testing, the table would be set. There was always a surplus of food: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, peas, yams, green
bean casserole, Jell-O salad, rolls and, one of my favorites, a cylinder of canned cranberry
sauce. Brian’s birthday is in late November, so every few years, it would fall
on Thanksgiving. It’s a good thing Brian likes turkey.
With so many people—Grandmama, Grandaddy, Aunt Shelia, Uncle Terry, my
cousins Breea and TR, Mom, Dad, Brian and me—there wasn’t enough room at the
table, even with the leaf put in. Each side of the family had a delegated
member that had to sit on a small folding chair of questionable stability. This honor fell to the
youngest member of each family—TR and me—because picking on the youngest is an
age-old tradition. Both TR and I later grew up to be the tallest members of
families, which I believe we willed into happening so we’d never have to sit in the
smallest chairs again.
Each time the family sat down together you could expect a few hilarious things to happen: Uncle Terry would cause trouble by bringing up politics, Granddaddy would make a comment
that the rest of us would regard as racially insensitive, we would hear about the
crazy trouble some of Breea and TR’s friends had gotten themselves into and
someone, usually me, would spill on the carpet.
One year, Grandmama had new carpet put in and we were all warned to be extra careful not to
spill. Of course, no one ever tries to spill; it just happens. When I was the
first to spill on the new carpet, there was a mild uproar that gradually turned
into laughter. I was actually given a prize for being the first.
These traditions of the family all getting together—something we did for every birthday and
holiday—continued as each of the kids started growing up, going to college and moving
away. We all enjoyed spending time together. One year TR had finally had
enough. “What’s wrong with us?” he asked. “We’re all so normal! None of us
fight or get into much trouble! We all like each other!” And we all had to
laugh because TR was right, but we liked it that way.