One November back when I was in college, my Mom decided to start a Thanksgiving tradition. Each of us, family and guest alike, would have to say what we were thankful for before we got to eat.
My brother Gordon got wind of this development ahead of time and tipped me off earlier in the day. I believe my response was something along the lines of “Fuck that shit,” to which he gently reminded me that this was Mom we were talking about and it would be better all around if we humored her. Of course, our humoring duties did not prevent a lot of eye rolling between Gordon and me when the dinner was served and the moment to be thankful came.
There were four of us seated around the table. In addition to Mom, my brother, and me was my mother’s ex-boyfriend Tom, a man whose expanse of head and facial hair inspired Gordon to refer to him as “the Wookie.” Mom had dumped his hirsute ass a couple of months prior but invited him to Thanksgiving dinner for reasons that still elude me to this day.
We let Tom go first. He expressed gratitude for being invited and danced around the whole being-jilted issue by using the word “friendship” every time there was a lump in his throat. That was great fun. Next came Mom, who made affirmations about how life was more wonderful than reality would suggest. As for Gordon and me, we gave stock snarky answers about how we were grateful that being thankful only came once a year and we managed to get through it before the food got cold.
“You are your father’s children,” Mom said, as she often did to comfort herself when her kids were behaving like swine.
It could have been worse. None of us were expected to thank God almighty for the feast that lay before us. Gordon and I were both atheists and neither knew nor cared about Tom’s religious beliefs. Mom, although spiritual, didn’t put much stock in a Judeo-Christian diety. Hers was more of a magic-crystal, new-age higher power who required no more gratitude than she gave my father after receiving his monthly alimony check.
Looking back, the decent thing to do would have have been to simply thank Mom for cooking us dinner. It’s funny how I only realize such things in hindsight. Common courtesy is not a strong trait among Jennings men, especially when youth and the sense of entitlement that comes with it are thrown into the mix.