Well-Fed, Well-Bred: Thanksgiving Stories

By Jessica Resendez

When the sun rises and the smell of turkey draws me out of bed, I stumble out to see what’s cooking only to find myself entangled in my family’s Thanksgiving web.

“Jessica, help me mop!” says my mother in a panic.

I’d love to run away, but if I did, it would be tragic.

Somewhere in the backyard, my dad is drinking a beer, hovering over his prized possessions like he does every year.

“Let me show you what I got cooking back here. I got smoked turkey, fried turkey, roasted turkey and baked. Don’t tell the others, but here goes a taste.”

The doorbell rings and my tia Connie is first to arrive. My favorite red-headed auntie brings the plate I most despise.

“Fruit salad, everyone! I brought the fruit salad,” she exclaims.

Eating this thing, though, is something that must always be overcome.

Mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, green bean casserole and pumpkin treats. It’s finally time to sit and eat, but not before a holy plea.

“Dear God, full of grace…”

But someone somewhere makes a silly face.

Now the cousins snicker with delight as one gets smacked and told “That isn’t right!”

Bellies full, too hard to breathe. Oh how my family loves to feast.

The night is ending and everyone’s tired. They’re packing their plates to their little hearts’ content.

It’s sad they’re leaving, but I’ll see them soon. With Christmas around the corner, it’ll be like Thanksgiving: Part II.

***

By Evan Siegel

Siegel Thanksgivings are all a process.

The day begins with some healthy dysfunction.  Mom zips around the kitchen putting the finishing touches on her sweet potato casserole, the recipe for which changes yearly.  Dad calls my aunt once, twice, three times, all to make sure everything is running according to schedule.  Leaving any earlier or later sets things off course.

The next task is picking up Grandma Judy; at 88, she’s still kickin’. I go inside her house, gently refuse to take the weird knick-knack she’s been sent in the mail, and leisurely walk to the car with her.  With everybody nice and cozy, we drive down the 405, past the Getty and the Skirball and into the valley, where my Aunt Annette’s house is.

Before dinner, there’s a lot of lively socializing.  My mom and Annette — both accountants — talk about the IRS and tax laws I don’t understand while Annette flies around the kitchen, perched around the oven like a hawk.  My dad and my cousin David — both electricians — talk about unreasonable clients and new tech innovations over the sounds of the Thanksgiving football game on TV.   Judy and my uncle’s mom Shani — both old — exchange stories about medication and gossip about old friends.  I talk to (and sometimes get my face smushed by) relatives I haven’t seen in a while.  Others stream in gradually, bringing in modest pies and other goodies while the dog (aptly named Boomer) barks and hops around.  The sad little celery sticks on the table always remain untouched.

Then, finally, it’s dinner time.  We eagerly line up to load our plates with the turkey and sides sitting pretty in front of us, and once everybody’s settled, the conversations continue.  I talk about college.  My uncle complains about neighbors and house renovations.  Somebody has to squeeze out of their tiny hovel at the corner of the table to go use the bathroom.  Some leave early to continue watching football while others linger for a while, laughing and reminiscing while the sun dips under the horizon.

Around midnight, we all say our goodbyes, loaded up with good food and ready for our respective drives home.  Nothing is too bittersweet, however, as we all have our Hanukkah and New Year’s routines to look forward to in the coming weeks.

***

By Savannah Peykani

Yes, the Peykani family rolls out every Thanksgiving with loads of food, family and friends. It’s my mom’s favorite day of the year and her patented unbridled enthusiasm resulted in me receiving weekly phone calls from her updating me on the turkey day plans since September (I know). However, it’s what follows Thanksgiving dinner that serves as the real highlight of this holiday.

Thirteen of us pile into our living room, where a mic stand, amplifier and ambient stool are proudly on display. Youngest to oldest, we decide, so my little sister bounces off the couch and struts over to the “stage.” She introduces her performance to twelve pairs of eager eyes and ears.

Madonna.

No, it’s not karaoke; it’s lip syncing. This isn’t about vocal talent — the focus is more so on stage presence and presentation. Plus the surprisingly difficult skill of accurately mouthing all the words.

When it’s my turn, I feel the pressure hit. Tonight is my time for redemption; last year, I hastily scrounged up two mediocre songs and gave a rather lackluster performance. I’ve been the victim of some pretty incessant, admittedly deserved, mocking for the past year. But now it’s all going to change.

“Say my name, say my name!”

Beyonce begins to croon and I sassily follow suit, causing a wave of woops and cheers from the audience. All of my 90s R&B dream girl wishes come true, as I execute a flawless rendition of my favorite Destiny’s Child hit.

Applause all around once the song ends and I proudly go back to my seat, ready to drink more wine and gear up for my next song: ABBA.

For one night, we can all be the stars we’ve always dreamt of being. A disco queen, a pop diva, or a heavy metal head banger (in the case of my dad). It’s a night for giving thanks to healthy, strange disillusionment.