Thanksgiving Back Home

Thanksgiving when your family is on the other side of the country just plain sucks. This year is my second Thanksgiving in LA, and I know it’s not going to be like a Block Thanksgiving. But I reckon that came with the choice I made in moving away from home. Since I need to be in the store for Black Friday, going home isn’t an option, so I reckon I’ll try and make the best out of this year’s Thanksgiving.

Whatever it is, it can’t be worse than last year at Monica’s parents house. That was the dinner where I said they should have an umpire on each side of the table. And the time I almost got into a fight with Monica’s brother, simply because he liked making trouble. He was probably willing to get beaten up just so he could play mind games with his two sisters. Like they’re not locoass bitches already.

At least I’m not going back for more of that insanity this year.

So I’ll bet that y’all are probably imagining that the Blocks have a traditional Southern Thanksgiving with deep-fried turkeys and sweet potato pie and all the other trimmings and Dad saying grace and all of us thanking Jesus for all the blessings we have.

And y’all would be totally right.

When I was a kid, though, we didn’t have Thanksgiving in Maryville. We always used to drive the 3 hours to Meemaw and Papaw’s farm and have Thanksgiving there. We’d go over on Wednesday and spend a few nights. I loved going to the farm. If you’re a kid used to the city, waking up on a farm is real exciting. There’s so much going on when the sun comes up, and I always enjoyed helping out with the chores. (Ok, I probably wouldn’t have thought it was so cool if I had to do it every day lol.) One of my jobs was feeding the chickens and collecting the eggs. The hired hands took care of milking the cows, although I used to like to go over to the barn and give a couple of squeezes. I thought it was so cool to see where things came from. I couldn’t get over how there’d be an egg in the morning where there wasn’t an egg the night before. I mean seriously: look at a chicken and explain to me how an egg comes out of that?

It was no secret that Papaw wanted to make a country boy out of me. (I reckon it wasn’t much of a secret either that he didn’t care a lot about making country girls out of my sisters.) I don’t know that I’d have liked being a country boy all the time, but I reckon I’d have made a good one. Papaw saw to it that I was a good fisherman and a good shot and that I knew my way around a farm before he passed away when I was 14. Dad never wanted to be a country boy, that’s why he joined the army so he could go to college and get a job in the city. (Yeah, yeah, I can hear everyone here in LA making fun of me for calling Knoxville a “city”. Just because it’s not LA doesn’t mean it’s not a city.) So me making a good country boy made Papaw real happy. At least that’s what Meemaw’s told me.

So back to Thanksgiving on the farm. It was always just the family, and maybe one of the hands if he couldn’t get back to his own family for the holiday. With Meemaw, Papaw, Mom, Dad, Elizabeth, me, Melanie Kate, Portia and (when she was born) Cordelia, we were nine. That was enough to cook for, Meemaw used to say. And she made the whole meal. Except for the deep fried turkey, that was Papaw’s job. But Meemaw made a ham, the best candied yams you ever tasted (with no Yankee marshmallow nonsense, she used to say), sausage stuffing, herb dressing, mashed potatoes, mashed turnips, hoppin john (that’s black eyed peas for you Yankees), and her amazing creamed onions. (Dang, I’m making myself hungry!) And, yeah, make fun of us if you want, but we had the green bean casserole with the crispy onions on top. Dessert? Sweet potato pie and apple pie. Y’all may not believe it, but Meemaw even churned the vanilla ice cream to go on the pie. Maybe that’s where I learned to love ice cream.

After Papaw passed on, Meemaw sold the farm, and she moved to Maryville to be close to us. That first Thanksgiving at our house was super stressful, as Mom had never cooked Thanksgiving dinner before and she was determined to prove to Meemaw that she could do it. That was the maddest I’ve seen them get at each other. (Dad was in charge of the turkey fryer. He says it’s like grilling…so it wasn’t women’s work.) Things settled down the next year, and we had some pretty wonderful Thanksgivings after that. Meemaw would leave Mom alone in the morning, and just came over close to dinner time (we ate at 3, and, like all meal times in the Block house, we ate at exactly 15 hundred hours, as Dad never could stop calling it.) Meemaw was in charge of the creamed onions, candied yams and the pies. (The ice cream came from the Kroger.) It was generally just us, although, one stressful year, we had the Rabinowitzes over with Shoshanah. That was the year Mom didn’t make the ham and worried one turkey wouldn’t be enough. (It was.)

What about football? I played in at least one turkey bowl every Thanksgiving morning, and Dad and me watched plenty of football on TV. But not during dinner and not until Dad said I could be excused. No matter how exciting the game on was. I thought that kinda sucked sometimes, but you definitely never questioned the rule about staying at table until you were excused.

I was in Maryville for every Thanksgiving until last year. My last Thanksgiving at home was six weeks before I left for California. It was pretty awesome. Melanie Kate and Jared and my nephews were there (although they had to go over and make an appearance at Jared’s parents house), and I can’t spend too much time with them. My older nephew was just at the age when he could start appreciating football; that was so awesome. Elizabeth came down from Virginia with her daughter, but that was the first year she came after her divorce. Her daughter was at a weird age, too old to play with my nephews and way too young to play with Cordelia. There was also a big issue about Cordelia’s boyfriend. Nobody wanted to invite him…but that’s another story. So we had our share of family drama. But it was still pretty awesome, especially as I knew it was going to be my last Thanksgiving in Maryville, assuming things worked out for me in California. Which I reckon they have.

So then I had that crazyass Thanksgiving with Monica’s crazy family last year. And this year? I should get to bed. I’ve got a big day ahead of me: turkey bowl at 10 and dinner at 5.

No, I’m not gonna tell you where. Y’all’ll have to wait to find out lol.

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