Ravi Zacharias once told a story about that I found hard to believe. He said when he was a young boy, his mother gave him a sweet treat and sent him outside to play. As he was walking down the sandy roads of his neighborhood, an eagle swooped down, clawed the side of his face, and stole the treat from his hand with its greedy talons. Went he went home in tears, his mother scolded him instead of offering comfort. She admonished him, saying he should be more aware of his surroundings. Had he not been so caught up in the rapture of his treat, he would have noticed the eagle’s stealthy approach.
Although I wasn’t there, I can imagine the grief he must have felt at being so unceremoniously robbed, for while at my sister’s house, I too was robbed by a circling hawk who swooped in and plucked a succulent piece of meat from my hands with her long, felonious fingers.
Chris had been in the backyard grilling steak and chicken for dinner. It didn’t seem right to have steak at Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t my house. I decided to allow him to serve red meat. A Kansas City native, Chris is unable to prepare any meal that does not involve a grill. Cereal, cream of wheat, pouring a bowl of peanuts – these are all out of his depth. I didn’t expect much out of him when he said he was going to grill, therefore. However, I discovered a new level of respect for his culinary prowess, once I actually got a chance to put his meat in my mouth.
“Ummm! Oh my gawd! This is delicious!” smacked A-Dub as she bit into a piece of steak.
She held out her hand and offered me the other half. It was glistening and was covered with unrecognizable seasonings. As I lifted it to my lips, a manicured brown paw reached down and yanked it from my fingertips. I looked up and saw Tee smacking her glossed lips in appreciation.
“Dag on. This IS good!” she said, talking over the food rolling around in her mouth.
I was enraged.
“You rat! You thieving…RAT!”
She laughed in my face and kept eating. A-Dud offered me a conciliatory taste of another piece. Somehow, it just wasn’t as satisfying. This might seem like a small infraction to you, but Tee and I have a decades’ long relationship built around eating that involves me protecting my food and her doing her best to fleece me of it. I confess: on that day, she was the winner. I’m sure you have a friend who does something similar to you. That chick who goes into your closet and wears your new jeans before you get a chance to. You know the one. Yeah Tee. I know you’re reading this. You meat stealer. I ain’t forgot!
But as I was saying.
Soon guests began to trickle in. Dinner was at 4 o’clock. Everyone had arrived by 4:15 at the latest. This is no small feat in the African American universe. Chris’ aunt/cousin Erica was one of the first to arrive. She was an older woman with pretty brown highlights in her hair and a pair of librarian glasses perched on her nose. Tee held out her hand to greet her.
“No, no honey. Nuh, uh. I don’t do that,” Erica objected.
She answered Tee’s look of confusion by pulling her in for a hug.
“That’s funny,” I cackled. “I thought you were some sort of germophobe or something!”
Erica looked at me contemptuously. She didn’t smile or giggle. Jeesh. Some people just can’t take a joke. You know, it just occurred to me that she just MIGHT have been a germophope. Ooops.
Finally it was time to eat, and feast we did! But not before Chris was asked to pray. It was his house, after all.
“Uh…rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub. Amen!” he grinned.
“No. Do it again. This time mean it,” someone said.
It took Chris 3 minutes to come up with an appropriate prayer, which is an eternity in anticipation time. Damn shame. The boy is so far removed from God that he couldn’t even thank Him for getting his guests there safe, on time, and for the food they were about to share. I shook my head and set about making 5 plates.
Since it was my sister’s first time hosting Thanksgiving, she wanted to infuse as much tradition as possible.
“We need to do what we’re thankful for,” she repeated over the din of adult conversation.
“Yes, yes! Let’s do that,” Tee and I agreed.
Marshall and Erica were in the midst of a geek-off, one arguing that Windows 5 was running off DOS and the other vehemently asserting that is was actually MS-DOS that the operating system was running on. I tried to diffuse the situation by saying it didn’t matter.
“It’s like heating a bowl with a candle versus a Bunsen burner. It’s all heat, isn’t it?”
They didn’t appreciate my analogy, and again Erica looked at me with scorn and greeted my analysis with silence. It didn’t matter. I was nursing a belly ache from having eaten entirely too much. Someone had to do it. We hadn’t made a dent in any of the food.
“I’ll start off,” said Marshall. “I’m grateful that I know when to stop eating!”
He shot me a side glance and took a sip of water. Whatever. I decided to take the high road.
“I’m grateful that I have a husband with a good job that covers all our needs,” I said sweetly. “’Cause I sure ain’t working!”
Amen’s! and Alright’s! filled the air.
Then it was Tee’s turn. She said she was grateful for good health, a job, and something else.
“Boo! What a cliché!” I heckled.
“Naw dude. Those things are important,” she replied.
“Yeah, when you’re over 40,” I snickered.
As everyone in the room burst into laughter, she went silent. I hadn’t meant to hurt her feelings. I have to remind myself that not everyone jokes the way A-Dub and our brother, the Reckless Weasel do.
Erica gave her invocation next. There was a little boy who has suffered physical abuse and mental trauma. He is in a home for disadvantaged children, and she is a mentor for him there. Despite his circumstances, he approached life with zest and enthusiasm.
“I just feel so blessed and honored to be able to serve someone like him,” she said in conclusion. “Not everyone gets the opportunity to give of their time and finances like I’ve been able to.”
3 or 4 people broke out in mild applause. Chris looked at Timothy, who was next on the list.
“Look, there’s no pressure,” he said. “Just know that whatever you say next is going to suck in comparison.”
Someone howled with laughter.
“I know right!”
(Okay. That was me, Ms. Insensitive.)
Sure enough, he said something that escapes memory.
Next to go was Chris’ other cousin, a fair skinned girl with lovely eyes, carried by a large frame by anyone’s standards. She was grateful for stretch pants.
A-Dub was next and last. Her supplication of gratitude was probably the most touching…but that’s probably because I’m not accustomed to her displaying any emotion that doesn’t involve the symbol Pi.
“I’m grateful that we were able to host this Thanksgiving, and that I have a beautiful, healthy son in my life. I’m thankful that my sister likes to drive and drove all the way from Atlanta to be here. I’m thankful that all of you decided to spend your holiday with us, and that I have Chris to share this life with.”
That was beautiful. I would have conjured up something inappropriate to say and undoubtedly ruined to mood had it not been for a knock at the door.
Sistah Stephanie! She had come with her cookies! I raced to the door to let her in.