For me, Thanksgiving has always meant driving over the river and through the woods (literally) to Grandma’s house for a wonderfully satisfying day of sloth and gluttony. The grownups would sit around the living room drinking beer, watching the Detroit Lions play some other team, while us kids would escape to the basement to play pool and sneak gulps of Schlitz from Grandma’s beer-meister.
Meanwhile, Grandma would be in the kitchen preparing the turkey. She would always save some of the less desirable parts – the heart, liver, gizzard, lungs, nostrils, toenails, brain – for Uncle Johnny, who would happily consume them like a starving Pilgrim. The only part he wouldn’t eat was what my Polish grandmother lovingly referred to as the turkey “dupa.” For this she had more sinister plans.
Then, while we sat around the living room in a Schlitz-induced haze, both kids and adults alike, Grandma would quietly emerge from the kitchen with the dupa hanging from a string. Before anyone knew what was happening, she’d pounce on the nearest grandchild, dangling the foul (pun intended) body part precariously close to his or her face. Total chaos would erupt as kids scattered in every direction, terrified. Meanwhile Grandma would giggle fiendishly as she reveled in her dupa-induced mayhem.
Nowadays, Thanksgiving means trying to eat two feasts, just hours apart, and trying to get my kids to sit through two sit-down meals in the same day. It’s a challenging day, to say the least.
First we head down to my in-laws around noon for the early meal, which my father-in-law and I wash down with a few glasses of homemade red wine. Then, once I emerge from my coma, we head out to my Grandma’s for Round #2. In preparation for this annual day of excess, I usually fast for a week, eating nothing but saltine crackers and water.
Grandma still chases the kids around the house with the turkey dupa. Only now it’s my kids and my niece and nephew who go running for the hills as the other adults and I watch on in delight. She doesn’t bother with me anymore, thank goodness; I’m too old to go clambering over furniture and sedentary relatives. Besides, I’m usually too busy to notice as I lie stretched out on the floor, belt unbuckled and eyes focused on the back of my eyelids, my body attempting to digest the 6,000 or so calories I consumed that day.
Thankfully it’s just once a year.