I went to Thanksgiving dinner at a college friend’s house.
The cast of characters at her dinners is surprisingly unchanged since she first started having them in 2000, after she graduated from law school and moved to New York. I have probably made it to 8 or 9 out of those 12. This year, as I surveyed the table looking for my placecard, I noticed I was seated at the children’s table.
I was highly and immediately irritated.
I had poured myself a glass of wine before walking into the dining room, so I turned on the Texans/Lions football game, sat on the sofa and thought about my choices. It was an issue of fairness, I decided, there were other single women coming to dinner and they weren’t put at the children’s table.
I don’t even care about Thanksgiving. Never have, in fact. If nine-year-old Dawn could have gotten safely from Halloween to Christmas without stopping for turkey in between, she would have! I know this, because she sketched out pretty detailed plans for same in her diary. And now that I love football? DUDE! I would very happily wake up at 11:30, shower, make coffee and then watch football in bed for the next 12 hours.
Nope, this would not stand. I decided to come up with some benign excuse, one that would get me out of there, but not cause a scene. I don’t care about Thanksgiving, but I wouldn’t ruin it for others.
I poured another glass of wine and settled on some vague stomach ailment. The kitchen door creaked open and a woman I had never seen before walked into the dining room.
“Hi. I’m Lisa. I went to Yale with her.”
“Dawn. Me too,” I drank deeply from my glass.
“Oh yeah… maybe we met before. Were you at the wedding?”
I raised my eyebrow. The game was back on, I needed to start exhibiting symptoms of my stomach ache, but here I was, now trapped in a conversation with a, presumably, crazy person. If she were at the wedding, she would know that I was *in* that wedding — a conspicuously plump brown ball wrapped in green satin with green fingernails — which I swear had seemed like a great idea at the time.
“Uh…yeah, I was there.” I finished my wine.
“Oh, then we probably met then. Have you heard of Yale Ladies?”
I refilled my glass, leaving about a swallow in the bottle.
“Well, I was one.” I swallowed that swallow straight from the bottle and put the empty bottle on the floor.
She chuckled. “No, it’s a charity organization. I started it a few years ago with my friend Mira, she’s upstairs.”
I had been told that my nephew was upstairs napping with the son of another of the dinner guests.
“Oh, is she napping with the babies?”
“No, she’s praying. She’s muslim.”
“Oh.” I took a sip of wine from my glass. I turned back to the football game.
She was quiet for a bit, then said “so you like football?”
I continued watching. “Yeah.”
A few more moments of silence, then:
“I used to watch, but I don’t really anymore.”
“Mmm,” another swallow.
“Oh, so I was telling you about Yale Ladies. We do a lot of community service and we’re planning a big conference in DC with a number of prominent speakers. I’m very excited, but I can’t divulge any of the names yet.”
“Well, I can tell you, but you can’t tell anyone!” She tells me.
She laughs awkwardly, “you’re not interested in any of this, huh?”
Andre Johnson, who I started in my game against VinNay, drops a pass and it’s recovered by the Lions, who I picked to lose.
“FUCK!… oh…what? No, that sounds great.”
“What do you do? We’re always looking for new people to join…”
I finished my wine. Seriously, I swear they are making wine bottles smaller than they used to…
“Uh…I’m very busy working. I’m a lawyer. I work all the time. Working…”
She fell silent. I went back to watching the football game. I reached for my glass and frowned at its lightness. I eyed Karen’s bar and smiled.
I half refilled my glass with some Lagavulin. I swirled the scotch around.
I decided to stay.
I didn’t notice when whatever-her-name was left. But when I cheered the Texans victory and looked around self consciously, I was alone.
I was hungry and probably drunk.
From the couch, I yelled that by law, hors d’oeuvres should be served between the football games, to prevent death. My host’s husband brought me a meat pie.
I was hungry, but I did not like it. So, I said something like “UGH. YUCK. WHAT IS THIS?”
Turns out, whatever-her-name’s grandma made it, and she brought some for the party.
“Oh,” I replied, wiping my tongue with my fingers and washing it away with more scotch.
I had seen some grapes in the fridge earlier.
“Bring me grapes!”
“No, you’ll ruin your appetite.”
Yeah, definitely drunk now.
Guests started arriving about an hour after that, including my tablemates at the aforementioned children’s table — the 2-almost-3 year old and her five year old brother, their parents, as well as the parents of the nine-month-old infant.
“I brought coloring books for your kids,” said the infant’s mom, producing the books and markers.
The older children sat down to color.
“WHERE IS MY COLORING BOOK?!” I asked from a prone position on the couch.
She laughed. I was NOT joking. RUDE.
The little girl walked over and handed me a marker and said I could color with her.
“That is SO nice of you,” I said.
“You’re pretty,” she replied.
“You are the best little girl in the whole wide world.”
My dinner at the children’s table was awesome, as I was totally the boss of them. Also, they fried a turkey and that was the coolest most delicious thing ever in all of human history. She also made a roast turkey, but when offered pieces of said roast turkey, I replied “Um… if there is fried turkey, why on earth would I eat non fried turkey?” At which point, my minions also decided that they would only eat fried turkey. They would also only eat the pies I would eat as all other pies looked “like something Tony Romo would eat and Tony Romo was not cool.” Incidentally, all whining, complaining and fighting were all prevented by me looking at them and saying “mmm… that’s probably what Tony Romo would do.”
“He’s not cool,” they would reply.
“Nope. He is not.”
YOU’RE WELCOME PARENTS.
I drifted over to the grown up table for a bit, during dinner, to say hello or steal back the plate of fried turkey… boring, I thought, absconding with the foodstuffs and returning to my land of little people. I wondered though, was that really my place or had I just decided to make it so.
Is that not the way of all things? You find what in life you can live with and accept them; those that you cannot tolerate, you leave.
No right or wrong; good, nor bad, but that believing makes it so.
Thinking about the night, and some of the weirdness of this year in general, got me thinking about this poem:
Spring and Fall
Gerard Manley Hopkins
MÁRGARÉT, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.