By Forrest Clancy
Last week we celebrated Thanks Giving. For most Americans, Thanks Giving usually means the whole family will spend a long weekend together, laughing at each others jokes, holding hands, expressing their gratitude for one another and their shared companionship. In my family, Thanks Giving means that for one long weekend, the three children are enslaved by our Mother.
She loves having us all home. She loves it particularly so when she needs the remote control, or something is ready to come out.
“Forrest…” is all it takes, for me to get the point. That, and a long finger wag towards the oven, as if she were drawing a path through the air. One that I should take.
Under my Mum’s regime, nobody eats until they’ve earned it. This means dusting the countertops, brushing Mum’s hair, painting her toe nails, flipping the cucumbers on her eyelids, and more. For her, Thanks Giving isn’t a family weekend. Instead, it’s more of a spa retreat.
I sadly still live at home, which means I bear the full three day force of the holiday. But my siblings cannot stay away for ever.
“Oh joy, you’re finally here.” She said to my brother, Ian, as he walked through the door on Saturday, “Forrest is in the middle of cleaning the floor, you can do the windows.”
When I was ten my Mum showed me how to make sweet potato pie. I was only interested in helping so that I could be the first to taste the golden marshmallows baked into the top. But then came 11, 12, 13 and 14 and before I knew it, she had indoctrinated me. I knew nothing about cooking other than how to make Thanks Giving dinner.
“Too sweet” she might say as she tries the potatoes, “too bitter” as she tries the celeriac.
“This is cold”
“Where is my gravy”
“And my champagne.”
This year my sister Hallie flew home from New York. “Oh no,” she frowned at at the first mention of stuffing, “the past six months I’ve been totally dairy and gluten free.”
Dieting doesn’t fly in our family. My Grandma would proudly tell you she had survived two heart attacks by the age of 60. She was a chef, my Aunt is a chef, my Mum was a chef. Hallie was cleaning the toilets when Ian walked in.
While we busy ourselves meeting Mum’s demands, for my Dad, Thanks Giving is the one day of the year when he puts on the lumberjack shirt, the leather boots, the gloves, and tries his hand ad the great outdoors. This means two things for his day, he will spend two hours setting fire to our fireplace, and one hour pacing around the kitchen, trying to sharpen a bread knife before the bird comes out.
When it finally does, all crispy and brown, there’s rarely a more mouth watering sight. Until my Father has taken to it. This year, by the time he was done, it looked more like he had torn it apart with his hands. We were at the table, so I couldn’t say aloud what I really thought. “Fucked it,” were the words I whispered in my Mum’s ear.
“Forrest, are you at all surprised? Now, this glass is starting to look about a quarter empty…”