Knitting Us Together

It’s all over but the washing — the washing of towels, sheets, comforters, and blankets spread over the couch so the three visiting pups could lounge with Son #1 and Daughter-in-law, as we watched that disgusting guy named Bear on Discovery Channel, the one who eats fat grubs, raw frogs, snakes (after biting off their heads), and crucifix spiders, all in the name of survival in extreme situations. “Listen to it crunch when he bites down on it!” Son #2 yells. “God, I would so take the wings off!”

We had nine for Thanksgiving Day dinner, a traditional meal — turkey, squash dressing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, Bing Cherry salad, fresh cranberries, deviled eggs, and rolls. Dessert was a choice of pumpkin pie with real whipped cream, coconut cake, chocolate cake, or fresh apple cake. I stood all the livelong day, until my feet ached, and I finally just sat down on the kitchen floor for the last few minutes of a conversation with my sister-in-law. Wiped out at day’s end, I announced to my brood, “If y’all want anything else to eat, fix it!”

It hit me at some point during the day, in the midst of all the confusion, conversation, and laughter: I’m most thankful for the fact that I have two kids who wanted to come home for the holiday. Both have other places, other people they could have been with. But they chose to sit around my table and eat my turkey. And tell tall tales about ME.

That’s the second-most thing I’m grateful for. All those tall tales. It hit me that storytelling — the stuff family legends are made of — is firmly established in our circle. Plain old-fashioned storytelling has woven its way into our homecomings, knitting us together, giving us common memories. Each time we gather, the favorites somehow catch spark and are re-told, growing like a fishing tale, embellished to form good solid entertainment. I do believe my two sons could keep a crowded auditorium in stitches for a full-blown comedy routine. Or write a memoir even better than Jean Shepherd’s classic In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, made into the traditional holiday film A Christmas Story, about Ralphie and his little brother Randy.

My favorite tale is the description of the sandwich I used to make for their school lunch boxes. Uneven pieces of cheese, including one big hunk, slapped between two slices of bread coated with spoonfuls of mayonnaise and topped with a wet piece of lettuce, the hard white bottom core part. In the lunchroom, they’d hold it up, like a soggy, soaked, full diaper and try to pass it off. “Anybody wanta trade? Please? For anything?” “No way, man.”

My least favorite is how Son #1, ten or twelve at the time, spent a week taking his father’s shotgun shells apart and used the gunpowder and some flour from my kitchen and other stuff and somehow made a “bomb” that incorporated a remote-controlled car — I don’t know what’s embellished or not — and they set it off in the woods behind our house. (They watched too much McGyver and Knight Rider.)

“Where was I?” I was right there at home with them most of the time.

“Painting chickens,” they belted out in a red-faced holler.

Ah, creative pursuits. I tole painted back then — decorative painting on wooden cut-outs.

The funny thing is that I was always accused of hovering, of overprotecting them. Now the truth is out, and the proof is there! I’ve learned way too much about what all happened back during their school days. I know full well that they have the ability to take one little example and swell it, adding fiction and creating dialog. But any way you slice it, their stories add a special touch to special gatherings and weave us together.

Now, as I fold warm towels, I laugh all over again, remembering.

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