Every Thanksgiving there were two tables.
One was long and rectangular with a white table cloth draped over it. Knives, spoons, and forks were wrapped in lace napkins. They were held together with strings of seashells and bells that jingled when touched. The chairs had tall, elaborate backrests and feet shaped like the paws of lions. There was a carpet with a mandala design beneath the table that caught on the chairs when they were pulled out.
The other table was in the kitchen. It was small and square-shaped with four chairs placed on each side. The surface was metallic which made the plates slide around on it with hockey pucks on an ice rink. One leg of the table was slightly shorter than the other, causing it to constantly wobble back and forth. Many before had attempted to put folded paper under the leg, but it never stayed in place.
Underneath the table a dog lay on the floor. Hoping to pilfer scraps of food that the kids dropped while eating. His earlier excitement at watching guests arrive had died down and he was now sleeping with his ears hanging down over his eyes.
The second table was The Kid’s Table.
On one side of me sat my younger brother, Julian, crinkling his plastic water bottle. Every time he crushed it he would blow through the top again, reinflating it. He sat on his knees, constantly losing his balancing and slamming his elbows against the uneven table.
Across from me sat my cousin, Cora, patting down her mashed potatoes with her spoon. She was the youngest in our family, but also the bossiest. The cranberry sauce and gravy on her plate had swirled together forming a moat around her food.
My more reasonable brother, Isaac, sat on my other side. He was staring at his food glumly, dreading what was to come.
Cora pointed a demanding finger at Julian, “After we eat, you have to play family with me. I will be the mom and you can be the dad.”
I exchanged a look with my other brother Isaac, we both knew what was coming next.
“No, Cora, I already told you! I won’t be the dad!” he said, frustratedly tearing apart his bread.
“Why not?” she asked, confused.
“Because if you are the mom and I am the dad that means we are married. And I don't want to be married to you.” he said. Most likely remembering all the other times Cora had dragged him along on dates in their game of family.
“Fine,” Cora huffed, obviously believing that Julian’s protests were ridiculous, “You can be the grandpa.”
Julian nodded, satisfied with the role he had received. Cora turned to Isaac, but before she could tell him who he would be in their game he cut her off.
“I’ll be the dog,” he stated, hopeful that his younger cousin would agree. We both knew that there was no escaping playing family on Thanksgiving, so we grudgingly went along with it. He was lucky to have gotten the role of the pet, at least all he had to do was crawl around on the floor and bark.
After a few seconds, she nodded her permission and turned to me, “You can be our kid.”
I groaned miserably, crossing my fingers that I could get her to change her mind. I had been the baby in the game almost every year, which meant I had to pretend to cry, eat the fake food she gave me, and go on play dates with the other ‘babies’ which were her stuffed animals. It was by far the most tiring job.
“Actually, Cora, I was going to read my book or kick around a ball in the front yard.” I told her, trying to sound as innocent as possible.
She hopped up from the table, apparently done eating, and grabbed my hand with her sticky ones. She dragged me off my seat and up the stairs to the room where she stored her play kitchen. She then walked back to the top of the stairs and called down to my brothers, “Come upstairs! We’re playing family now!”
Two sets of footsteps thundered up the stairs and joined us. In the middle of the room there was a large pool table that sometimes served as a dinner table during the game. On the right side all of Cora’s plastic ovens and refrigerators were set up, and on the left side there was a couch that I knew would end up being the baby’s crib.
I glanced at the dart board on one wall and took in the many pinprick holes on the wall surrounding it. There were even a few in the bookshelf from when Julian had missed the board. I held back laughter, as I walked obediently over to the couch and sat down.
Isaac took his usual spot on the floor and Cora set a bowl of ‘dog food’ in front of him.
“Dinner time, puppy dog!” she declared, patting him twice on his head. He lowered his head to the bowl, pretending to eat until she walked away. When he sat up we exchanged another exasperated look.
Julian came over to me with a plate of ‘pizza’ and an ‘ice cream cone’ and set it on the table in front of me. I pretended to eat it while constantly checking my watch. When all of our family gathered to eat dessert I would be saved from the game.
A few hours later, after we had eaten dessert, Julian insisted that we all go on a family vacation in his battery-operated toy truck.
Cora was our appointed driver since we had all decided that we were safer with her at the wheel. Julian had wanted to drive, but we all remembered what happened on Easter last year.
Our dad had been trying to teach Julian to parallel park and Cora was riding in the passenger seat. As he was driving she had switched the gear on the car and tripled his speed. Julian had lost control of the car and nearly ran over the onlooker’s feet.
“Why are we stopped?” Isaac asked. We had been riding around in the backyard for the last few minutes. Julian had called shotgun, so I was stuck in the back and the dog, Isaac, was riding in the small trunk.
“We got stuck in some traffic,” Julian explained. With all of us stuffed in the small, plastic vehicle, it wouldn’t move. He still didn’t seem to understand that we exceeded the weight limit.
“Oh, okay,” I swung my legs over the door, climbing out of the truck, “I’m just going to get some water, I’ll be right back.”
Once excused, I ran quickly inside and up the stairs. I hid in the spare bedroom, reading my book with the door locked until it was time to go.
After all, I would get to play family again next Thanksgiving.