Things You Might Overhear at My Family’s Thanksgiving Celebration

Few moments in my life are funnier than the comments bubbling up during meals spent with my crazy family and equally crazy friends (who are like chosen family.). Since my cousin Jeff and I can basically mind meld, all it takes is a quick exchange of glances to kick off some of these running dialogues during Thanksgiving dinner. Here’s my Top Five List of Oddball Things Said During Meals Together (family and friends edition), with a (T) behind those you might overhear at my family’s Thanksgiving.

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  1. “I have a torn labia.” One of my guy friends said this when I asked him what kind of shoulder surgery he was recovering from. He meant to say “labrum,” but somehow, labia is what came out. I was in hysterics for a good half an hour afterwards. I felt guilty laughing because he looked so pained and embarrassed, but that only made me laugh harder. I choked on my coffee this morning, just remembering this one all over again.
  2. “No man can refuse this p***y!” A certain uber-tall cousin of mine grabbed his right ankle and lifted his long leg over his head, uttering these words in the middle of a Sizzler Restaurant during lunch one day, mimicking Grace Jones in the Eddie Murphy movie, Boomerang.  Unbeknownst to him, as he was sitting in front of a column, there was an entire table of people behind him, whom I was facing, who did not appreciate his Grace Jones imitation, making this even funnier. I waved my hands wildly about in the “stop” motion, but he misinterpreted my gesturing as “Stop making me laugh!” I couldn’t stop hyperventilating in giggles long enough to warn him to stop.
  3. “Fifteen is my limit on schnitzengruben!” (T)This line from Blazing Saddles is uttered every time someone tries to push food on us at Thanksgiving, when we’re already way too stuffed.
  4. “It’s only wafer thin…” (T) –– This alludes to the epically disgusting, never-ending puke scene in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. John Cleese offers up a wafer-thin mint to an obese man who has eaten so much, he explodes. In the end, all that remains is a beating heart, dangling, encased inside of a rib cage.
  5. “Go make yourself a danged quesadilla!” (T) — To say this correctly, you have to make quesadilla rhyme with Sarah Palin’s hometown, Wasilla. This line, from Napoleon Dynamite, is typically said later in the day, when dinner has settled and someone interrupts our Euchre game long enough to announce they have a taste for a turkey/stuffing/cranberry sauce sandwich. I also say this to Jack, pretty much every day we’re home together and he asks me to make his lunch.

This year, Jack and I are celebrating Thanksgiving with my extended family over the weekend, so tomorrow will be a quiet day at home, watching “Holes” and Napoleon Dynamite, wishing the pilgrims had kicked off this holiday with Beef Wellington rather than turkey. And what are your plans? Need ideas for side dishes, cocktails, main course recipes, cooking time, gravy techniques, family games or table decor tips? Check out my freshly curated Pinterest Holiday Entertainment board. Consider this your new go-to resource filled with infographic goodness and everything you’d need to know for holiday entertaining. Also, I learned a great trick on Saturday with my baked brie — using apple butter instead of apricot preserves gives it this apple pie flavor that is simply amazing. Give it a whirl!

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Elfred, Our Elf on the Shelf: Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

It all began innocently enough. The other kids in school all had elves on their shelves, and Jack was starting to feel unloved by Santa. So we caved. I remember saying to myself at the time, “This is ONLY until Christmas. This one time.”

Jack named him “Elfred.”

Elfred, Jack's BFF for 3 years.

Elfred, Jack’s BFF for 3 years. Styrofoam cup crown, Magic Loom (TM) belt and bracelet designed by Jack. Dried, unidentifiable dairy product on left sleeve also fashioned by Jack. 

We were diligent about moving Elfred to different spots in the house every morning before Jack got up. Elfred was really active. I refused to give into the staged mini-marshmallow snowball fights, and the flour sprinkled on the countertops and the floor to mimic all manner of after-hours elf naughtiness. Those shenanigans were best left to those overachieving mother-of-the-year types. (Okay, so some empty wine bottles may have been blamed on Elfred, now that I think back on it.)

On Christmas three years ago, Santa gave Jack an iTouch, with a special engraving on the back from Elfred, telling Jack that he was Elfred’s “best friend.” Jack beamed with Christmas joy. Unfortunately, “Santa Dave” didn’t consult with me first before accompanying this gift with a beautiful, calligraphy fonted letter from Elfred on linen paper, announcing that as of this Christmas, Elfred would be living with us year-’round.

The thought balloon above my head replayed Ralphie in that flat tire scene from A Christmas Story: “Oh…FUDGE…” My spirited chat with Santa Dave later that evening teed me up for a five-course meal of Life Buoy soap.

So this Elfred charade went on for three excruciatingly long years. Like any busy adults, we got careless. It happens. We’d forget to move Elfred for days–even weeks–on end. Jack was getting increasingly upset by Elfred’s lethargy, convinced his little elven buddy was dying. One morning, in my attempt to explain it away, I blurted out, “Well, he gets his magic from the North Pole, right? We just need to put him in the fridge to regain his magic!” Jack was satisfied with that answer. Problem solved. But every time I opened the fridge, I would startle, not expecting to see that creepy little elf face staring me down. Elfred became dieting MAGIC.

This past fall at nearly age 10, Jack finally looked me squarely in the eye one day and asked me to tell him the truth about Santa. Dave would have kept it going until Jack was in his senior year of college, but I established early on in our relationship that if Jack wanted to know the truth about something, I was the go-to parent. (Naturally, this has created many awkward moments when Jack has asked me for definitions to certain words. When I answer him truthfully, I usually get an “Oh, Mama, I’m sick to my stomach…I have to go lie down,” but I have remained steadfast in this role.)

If those of you reading this have children who are asking if YOU are Santa, one of my more mother-of-the-year-type friends shared this well-written explanation she found on Pinterest, which she just gave to her own daughter:

 

Dear (Insert Child’s Name Here),

Thank you for your letter. You asked a very good question: “Are you Santa?”

I know you’ve wanted the answer to this question for a long time, and I’ve had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.

The answer is no. I am not Santa. There is no one Santa.

I am the person who fills your stockings with presents, though. I also choose and wrap the presents under the tree, the same way my mom did for me, and the same way her mom did for her. (And yes, Daddy helps, too.)

I imagine you will someday do this for your children, and I know you will love seeing them run down the stairs on Christmas morning. You will love seeing them sit under the tree, their small faces lit with Christmas lights.

This won’t make you Santa, though.

Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch.

It’s a big job, and it’s an important one. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends, in your talents and in your family. You’ll also need to believe in things you can’t measure or even hold in your hand. Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during its darkest, coldest moments.

Santa is a teacher, and I have been his student, and now you know the secret of how he gets down all those chimneys on Christmas Eve: he has help from all the people whose hearts he’s filled with joy.

With full hearts, people like Daddy and me take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible.

So, no. I am not Santa. Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. I’m on his team, and now you are, too.

I love you and I always will.

Mama

P.S. As for Elfred, the last I heard, he joined a motorcycle gang out of Albuquerque. If you cross him, you’ll know him by that tell-tale stain on his left sleeve.