I wasn’t planning on writing anything about Thanksgiving, but considering
the hilarious the wonderful family moments that I was able to witness yesterday, I figured a post was necessary. Also, around the time my uncle was making us quote scripture to get dessert my cousin whispered, “I see a blog post coming out of this.”
She knows me so well.
Not that I would ever exploit my family in such an obvious way.
Yes I would.
Since we moved to Florida four years ago, my family has been having Thanksgiving at my uncle and aunt’s house. Our families have always lived close to each other so we get along really well. Even in NY we only lived 30 minutes away from each other. Due to the proximity we’re really like one family, just with four parents and six children. This intimacy that we have with each other also allows us to mock each other quite openly and frequently. It also doesn’t help that all of us are quick-witted. Add on the stress and food euphoria that comes with a holiday and you can only imagine what goes down at our gatherings.
Anyway, let’s discuss the holiday.
First, I should probably mention that we’re Jamaican. We’re very Jamaican. We’re so Jamaican that our skin tones mimic the Jamaican flag: some of us are black and some are yellow.(None of us are green.)We do not let the fact that we’re celebrating a quintessentially American holiday get in the way of our Jamaican-ness.This is what was on the menu yesterday:
1 ) Jerk seasoned turkey
2 ) Kale with onions and turkey neck
3 ) Curried goat
4 ) Sweet Potatoes
5 ) Corn casserole
6 ) Rice and beans
7 ) Baked macaroni and cheese
8 ) Baked ham
9 ) Roast beef
10 ) String bean casserole
11 ) Salmon
12 ) Pumpkin flan (this was for desert, but I didn’t know you could get pumpkin into flan so let’s all marvel over that culinary masterpiece)
Take a moment to look over that list and say, “what the heck?” to yourself.
Are you done? Ok.
So my family, with my grandmother and great-uncle in tow, piled into my father’s car around 4:00 and headed to Thanksgiving dinner. Since my grandmother is “The Queen” in her own delusional mind, she sat in the front seat, while my great-uncle, my mother, and I with our long gangly legs were forced to sit in the back seat. My grandmother is all of 3 1/2 feet and I swear her feet were dangling off the edge of the front seat while me and my 5 foot 6 inches of length had to sit in the middle. Then this exchange took place:
Me: Mom, you should put on your seat belt.
Mom: I’m trying! Gosh, Gyasi, your butt is everywhere!
Happy Thanksgiving to me.
After an agonizing 30 minute drive, we reached my uncle and aunt’s house. We were supposed to get there at 4:00 so at about 4:10 my cousin sent me this text:
Cousin: Get here now!
The reason why she was so anxious for our arrival was because my uncle, aunt, and cousins have a habit of going out into the world and inviting everyone and their second cousin’s roommate’s best friend’s grandmother’s pediatrist to Thanksgiving dinner and then not telling each other who’s coming until the day before. This usually means there’s about 30 different people who don’t know each other sitting around the table wondering if that meat floating in yellow tinted gravy is beef (that would be the goat). Always a blasty blast it is.
We get there, unpack the car,
heave my grandmother out of the front seat, and start setting up the food my mother brought while my uncle carves the turkey and my aunt makes biscuits. After a few minutes (or 45, but you know who would be so petty as to count down the minutes until food was on the table? Certainly not this self-less writer) we gathered around the table and held hands to pray. Then this happened:
Aunt: Before we pray and thank God for this wonderful dinner, we’re going to sing the chorus of “Count Your Many Blessings”. It’s a family tradition.
Me: (thinking) Since when? Did we do this last year? I don’t remember doing this last year! Is she kidding? We’re so close to food! It’s right there! They didn’t do this at the first Thanksgiving. This cannot be historically accurate. I haven’t eaten since breakfast! C’mon!!!!!!!!
God: Gyasi! Stop it!
So after a rousing chorus of “Count Your Many Blessings” my cousin says, “Wait, can we do that again? I want to videotape it.”
Me: Oh this chick is gonna get shanked after this mess.
God: Gyasi! Be thankful!
I don’t think I spoke to anyone during the meal. As it is I cut the line in front of my grandmother, father, great-uncle, and a woman in a wheel chair to get to the food. Don’t judge me. I was just so thankful for the food that I couldn’t bear to wait any longer to partake of it.
God, please don’t strike me down where I type.
After we had all stuffed ourselves full of food and were sitting at the table in a turkey induced stupor,the dessert came out. However, this is my family, so my uncle thought it would be fun to have us sing for our dessert. My great-aunt sang, my friend sang, my grandmother tried to get me to sing, the woman in the wheelchair sang, and then we moved on to Bible verses. Awesome.
Just as God was writing my name on a lightning bolt and taking aim (I won’t tell you what I was thinking at this point), we were allowed to eat dessert without the threat of eternal damnation. I helped myself to a hunk of pecan pie and was sitting on the couch eating it like a crack fiend.
Me: (thinking) Pie…me like pie. Pie so good it like love. Why are you looking at me? Are you lusting after my pie?! My pie! MY PIE!
God: Gyasi, seriously?
Me: Sorry, God.
Suddenly, laughter erupted from the kitchen. I stuffed my mouth with my pie, lest anyone should get any ideas, and wandered over to see what was going on. My mother was holding one of the delightful oatmeal, cranberry, and macadamia nut cookies I had lovingly prepared and was in fits of laughter. What was so funny about my cookies? Well, this is apparently what happened:
Mom: (offering a cookie to her cousin) Gyasi made these.
My cousin: What’s in them?
Mom: Oatmeal, cranberries, and macadamia nuts.
My cousin: That’s like a brillo pad for your intestines.
Mom: (laughs so hard she cries)
My cousin: That’s a colon cleanse.
Me: (thinking) God, you gotta give me that one.
God: Take it. Take it.
I walked off in a huff after administering my stare of death and sat down in the living room with one of my friends. A few minutes later, my other cousin (the one who didn’t mock my cookies. At least not when I could hear her) suggested we watch “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.” This and the tryptophan that was coursing through my system was enough to put me to sleep. I got through about fifteen minutes of the movie before I passed out and had a Thanksgiving nap at 7:30. I slept for about 20 minutes and woke up in a better mood. I woke up thankful, ladies and gentlemen, especially after my aunt told me this story:
Patricia*, the woman in the wheelchair, is the friend of a friend from church. She’s originally from Africa and has been handicapped for most of her life. When insurgents stormed into her church one Sunday, they massacred the entire congregation. Patricia survived only because she had been in the bathroom when the shooting started. Everyone else was killed. If something like this wasn’t enough to make you want to spend the rest of your life in the fetal position, Patricia had never in her life been to a Thanksgiving dinner. Her family has shunned her for her entire life due to the fact that she’s in a wheelchair. Yesterday was the first time she’d ever experienced a Thanksgiving with family.
Do I feel like a jerk, reader?
I deserve that lightning bolt with my name on it.
Patricia’s story made me realize that while my life may not be going the way I want it to, I have a million and one things to be thankful for. I grew up in a country where I could go to church without the threat of being murdered. I have parents that (despite their biting wit) deeply care for me and provide for my needs. I have an extended family who treat me like one of their own. I have amazing friends who tolerate my irrational mood swings and love for Asian cinema. My life is pretty sweet (not to sound like a surfer).
So to my family and friend who are reading this, you’re what I’m most thankful for.
When God and I aren’t discussing ways to improve my temper, we’re talking about how awesome you guys are.
Even though it’s a day late, Happy Thanksgiving!
*name has been changed