When my mother told me she had bought some kind of cheap karaoke machine for the kids, I should have known right away that Thanksgiving would never be the same.
At every Thanksgiving celebration of my own childhood, my cousins and I were known for our “shows” –something Nate reminds me is not unique to my family, but…shut up. In my mind they were. In my mind we were the only family ever in history to put on a ridiculous Dinah Shore parody variety show (“The Dina Saur Show”) with singing, and dancing, and fake commercials, and a baby cousin who stomped off crying every single time because she didn’t get to be a ballerina.
It was the ultimate in late-seventies preadolescent pop culture satirical absurdity.
And I guarantee our shows were better than those any other family with limited talent, so there.
As the oldest–a very worldly 10 or so–I was your host, Dina (did you have any doubt?) and my brother and cousins took turns playing the various cast members. Adam, from when he was about 4, could do a killer Howard Cosell impression. (Really, it was uncanny.) My brother’s swan song was as “Murgy Gurgle, the tap dancer with the two left feet.” My cousin Ryan was probably the most versatile, taking on whatever role the sketch required. And Lane, at about 3 years old, wore a way-too-big football jersey and a helmet that fell over his eyes, and allowed me to interview him as Mean Lane Green.
As I recall, the sketch always ended with him tackling every one of us until we were all “dead” and the show was over. Including Erin, who did, in the end, always get to be a ballerina. Our producers were very accommodating that way.
The most popular sketch was one that could never (never NEVER) fly today–a Sally Struthers-esque commercial parody, with a plea to donate to the Mental People Association of America. My role was to ask for your help for these sad, sad, mental people (mental people?) while my cousins did everything in their power to act crazy, get me to break character and laugh.
Don’t yell at me, PC parents This was back in the day of Polish jokes and “me put pee pee in your Coke.” It was an ugly time for progressives.
Last night, we saw the beginning of a whole new show. Equally messy, equally earnest, and equally cry-your-mascara-off funny. If only a tad more politically correct.
My mother had rented a Girl Scout lodge in the woods (an entire post unto itself) to be able to accommodate us all. The girls were thrilled to find a room filled with cots, which they excitedly dubbed the Annie Room.
You know. The orphans.
A dozen adults were called into the Annie Room and took our seats. The show started with a big jubilant group dance of Day by Day followed by some knock-knock joke telling; 90% of them a variation on the old banana/orange you glad I didn’t say banana chestnut. Even Jemma, our 2 year-old cousin squeaked in a sweet rendition of Twinkle Twinkle, with Drew, not yet 2, getting enough booty-shaking in to make his presence worthwhile. Shel Silverstone poems were recited by memory and not withstanding the technical difficulties of the damn cheap karaoke machine, I’d say the Generation 2 Cousins Show was a resounding success. Especially considering not one of the performers was over 6 years old.
Rhythm is not our strong suit. Nor is hitting musical notes. None of our children will be on So You Think You Can Dance any time soon. But every witness in that room would attest we make up for it tenfold in passion.
It was as Thanksgiving should be:
Family. Friends. 2 kinds of stuffing, both with chorizo (thanks, Nate). The next generation of 2 year-olds learning how to dance. Nominally comfortable andirondack chairs around a massive fire. Nervous parents keeping their toddlers away from said fire. Smoke alarms that wouldn’t turn off. Outstanding turkey. Many pies. Momsie’s blackbottoms faithfully recreated by my sister-in-law. No hot water. Teary toasts from my aunt and uncle. Much love.
No, I did not leave my family at 6PM in order to camp out in the cold for doorbusting discounts on a HDTV. Frankly, I’d rather give my kids me every year.
I’d rather give them us.
Hope you had a beautiful Thanksgiving, everyone.
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