Be thankful for family

Published 9:12 am Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Claustrophobia was beginning to set in.

Minutes felt like hours as they dripped slowly away like gravy on the night before Thanksgiving. The room was loud, hot and I was pinned against the dining room table due to the record number of people seated around it.

With my hands at my sides I struggled to shove blobs of a mushy, potato-like concoction into my mouth, with the arm motion of a tyrannosaurus rex with an itchy nose.

It was my parents’ first and last attempt at hosting a family get-together at Thanksgiving.

The immediate members of my family — my sister, my mother, my father and I — were never big on holiday traditions, but in this case we let that slide.

I was 11 years old and had recently moved to Alabama from Oregon. The extended portion of the family on my dad’s side — my aunt and grandmother — apparently missed us and wanted to spend the holiday together.

They flew down — neither having traveled to the Deep South before — to visit. My great-uncle and great-aunt — also on my father’s side — drove up on their way to Florida from New Jersey for the winter.

I was gripped by excitement at first with news of the family’s arrival, but was quickly disappointed when I found out I would be sharing a room with my sister for the week.

I enjoyed the company at first, but the variety of unique personalities got a bit draining. For instance, my great-uncle had a grapefruit basically thrown at him when he asked my aunt to section it during breakfast.

I myself, not being a fan of grapefruit, found this to be hilarious, but my great-uncle was a bit more upset.

My mother and my aunt shared a kitchen for a week and didn’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on every culinary decision.

The greatest atrocity in my 11-year-old head, however, was when my aunt, who always seemed to take charge of a situation told me and my sister to sit at a separate table during Thanksgiving dinner. She dubbed it the dreaded “kids table.”

This relegation was due to the aforementioned need for space at the “adult table.”

The table wouldn’t have been so unbearable except I fancied myself quite the worldly adult and looked down on my sister, whom I viewed as childish, though she was only 18 months younger than I and probably a bit more mature at that time.

To make matters worse, the two dogs and cat were trapped in the same room we were in and I was forced to fight off the mutts for my supper.

At that time in my life, I couldn’t comprehend inviting such guests to what I assumed would involve just my immediate family. At the time I was happy that we never tried that get-together again, but as always things change.

My great-uncle died and my grandmother followed behind him a few years later while I was in college. We haven’t seen my aunt — save one trip to Oregon — since then.

My sister lives in Chicago and I moved up here. We are scattered around the country and our busy lives threaten to keep us away during the holidays every year.

As I reflect back on it, I wish I had savored that time with my family as much as the dry turkey and eggy stuffing.

I am thankful we all had that short time together as a family, and hopefully I won’t take family for granted the next time an opportunity like that comes to holiday dinner.

DALE LIESCH is a staff writer for The Tidewater News and can be reached at