Like Chicken and Dumplin's, Thanksgivin' doesn't have a G on the end in the south.
Before I was born, my dad's mom's side of the family all got together at my great-grandparents' house for a huge family Thanksgiving. My grandma has two sisters and they each have kids who have kids, so the house was usually pretty full. I only remember a few of these celebrations, as I was only about 4 when my great-grandmother passed away and they dwindled down a bit after that, but I've heard the tales and seen the pictures. When I was about 9 or 10, we met for another big one. I orgnanized my cousins and put on a play on the back porch. We did two performances, if I remember correctly.
When I was 22 and a first-year graduate student at Alabama, the family decided to rally together and have one last big family Thanksgiving at the house. My great-grandfather had passed away about two years before and my aunt had been living in their house. Marcus was finishing up college in Louisiana, so he wasn't able to make a quick trip home to Virginia for Thanksgiving. He ended up coming with me and experiencing THANKSGIVIN' first-hand.
I think I've told you my family's kinda crazy. This is the same grandma, by the way, who thought we had green bean casserole and a whole turkey every year. The scary part is, I think she may be the most normal one of her generation. Her father was a trip. A TRIP. He dropped out of school when he was 8 to help work the cotton fields and ended up owning his own grocery store as an adult. He was one of the hardest workers I've ever met and the vegetables out of his garden have spoiled me forever. But even he had his moments. My grandmother's youngest sister was married for several years to a man named Johnny. Actually, two of her husbands were named Johnny, but this was the second one. Now Johnny was the epitome of a good ol' boy. He used to tell all of us that he didn't eat chicken because he'd eaten so much wild chicken in Vietnam that he could no longer stomach poultry. He also told us great stories about working on the Alaska pipeline. Imagine our surprise years later when we found out he'd never left the tiny Mississippi town where he was born.
One fine day, my great-grandfather decided his cat was constipated. I'm not 100% sure how you tell a cat is constipated, but ok. Oh, I forgot to mention that his name was Pervie Lester (my great-grandpa, not th cat). Somehow, that makes this story funnier. Anywho, the poor kitty is constipated, so P.L. (what he went by) enslists Johnny as his assistant and sets out to help the cat. Now most normal people would call the vet and maybe throw a little ex-lax into the kitty's food. Not my family. The plan was to catch the cat, put it's head in a boot and give it a Fleet enema. Take a moment to picture it. Ok, ready? Good. So Johnny holds the boot while P.L. shoves this poor cat's head down into it and proceeds to give it AN ENTIRE enema. They said when they were done, Johnny dropped the boot and the cat, boot on head, started spinning around, spraying a most foul concoction from it's rear. But at least he wasn't constipated anymore, right? GAH.
I tell you that story to let you know the kind of people we're dealing with here.
So Marcus and I arrive at the house for the big Thanksgivin'. My cousin is there with her new husband who is rich and thinks he's above all of us. My other set of cousins comes decked out in camo because they're going huntin' (also without a G) as soon as they get a belly full of turkey. There's enough food there to feed a small country, including 3 pans of my great-grandma's special dressing, one made by my grandma and one by each of her sisters. (competitive much?) My dad was kind of giving Marcus the stink-eye because he was a guy dating his daughter. It was louder than most football stadiums. And that was just the kitchen.
After a while, my cousin who's 11 months older than me came up and told me that my aunt who lived in the house was expecting her dog to die soon. A little backstory--my aunt and Johnny had a pekingese named Honey who lived for 16 years and liked to eat steak. When Honey died of cancer (common with that breed), my aunt bought a miniature casket and buried Honey in the backyard. Well, her new puppy, Peabo, was also diagnosed with cancer and on his last legs at that point. My cousin just KNEW she had another miniature casket somewhere in the house, so we set out to find it. In retrospect, I probably should have told Marcus what we were looking for, but I just told him to come with me. And he did, probably to get away from my dad's stink-eye and my freaky cousin Boo who was trying to pick him up. We poked around for a while, then hit the jackpot in the front living room. Now we were all in our twenties at this point, but that room still terrified us. When we were growing up, P.L. would tell us stories of Old Lady Graines, an old witch who lived in his attic. The attic was accessible through the coat closet in the living room. After five minutes of heated debate between my cousin, my uncle and me, it was decided that Marcus would be the one to open the Old Lady Graines closet. When he did, he came face to face with Peabo's final resting place--a mother-of-pearl miniature casket.
It really is a wonder he ever married me at all.