Holiday Spirit

September 26, 2015 § Leave a comment

On Thanksgiving morning, my mother makes mimosas. She says it’s to help create the holiday spirit.

“The holiday spirit? I thought that was Christmas.”

“Don’t be difficult.”

She’s pouring herself another while slicking the turkey with oil and butter. It’s a skill, really, one she’s improved over time. One hand holds the champagne bottle vertical while the oil brush moves horizontal, bathing the dead, headless bird in a dressing that’s all fat. I remind myself to pull the skin off later.

“Well, drink up.”

My mother stands apart from my friends’ mothers, even if she tries to blend in with a Toyota Camry and a bob haircut and a seasonally appropriate wreath on the door. She can’t hide the thick inner-city Boston accent that rings clear in every Stahp-N-Shop grocery aisle and booms in every town hall meeting about higher property taxes. “I’m sorry,” she’ll say from the back, nails beating against the school desks that serve as seats. “But I might as well pay a thousand dollahs on aih fahes and send my kids to Gehmany for school.”

When I was fifteen, I saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix with a boy who tried to shove his tongue down my throat. My mother rolled her eyes as I brushed my teeth. “Being a prude won’t be fun, fahever, sweethawht.”

She’ll say something similar on days like this, when she shoves a glass of champagne or wine in my hand and I sip it slowly as she moves on to glass number two and then three. She raises her eyebrows at me now from beside the sink. “Well, you must be a blahst at pahties.”

“It’s 10:30 in the morning.”

“And it’s Thanksgiving. Be grateful and drink up.”

She’s a good cook, though. As the amount of champagne decreases the smells of buttered rolls and rosemary stuffing and glazed carrots drift from the kitchen. She sings Alanis Morissette and my sister and I wait in the dining room. My father sneezes on the couch while he watches the game. He’s allergic to rosemary.

“Allergies are for pansies,” my mother will say every year as she sets the stuffing on the table.

My father will say nothing.

This is the routine. My mother wobbles her way to her seat; my father sneezes; my sister and I pass around first the turkey and then the mashed potatoes and next the rolls. My father will tell my mother it’s delicious before he takes his first bite, and my sister or I will bring out the bottle from beside the stove. My mother will make a speech about how being a housewife is the same thing as being a slave, and no one will say anything, and then she’ll sit back in her chair with her glass and tell my father to do the dishes.

Somewhere my relatives are gathered without us. There is more space for everyone, and less leftovers. My grandmother does not need to add the board to the dining room table to make it longer.

My mother refills her glass.

“We should say what we’re thankful for.” It’s my sister. She’s young and hopeful, maybe fourteen. My mother and father look up, and I return to my food. It’s the best my mother’s ever done. The turkey is moist, the potatoes are lump-free, the carrots don’t crunch but aren’t too soft. It’s perfect. I start refilling my plate.

“I’m thankful I’m getting good grades this year,” my sister persists. She looks at my father.

“Well, I’m thankful for another great year at the firm, I suppose.” He doesn’t meet my mother’s eyes. She’s staring him down from the opposite end of the table, eyes as glazed as the carrots. Wax is drying in a pool around the candles. My mother’s eyes shift to me.

I watch the wax slide off and harden.

“I’m thankful for the food,” I say. “It’s great, really great.”

“And I,” my mother says, raising her glass in a toast, “am glad we weren’t invited to a goddamn boring fool event at my mothah’s house.”

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