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Sitting at the Kids Table

Remember that one Thanksgiving, around twelve or thirteen, where the time to move you from the kid’s table to the adult’s table was finally at hand? You scooted your seat to the big table, ready to hear the adult conversation and important thoughts of the day, where the real family decisions are made. You turned back, just once, to look down on your younger siblings and cousins, crowded around the folding table, fighting over a bowl of mashed potatoes. How glorious, how important, how did you ever wipe that smug look off your face?

Fast forward and now you’re stuck. Stuck between Uncle Bill and Nanny Elma (is she even related to us?), while your oldest cousin can’t stop bragging about a bear he shot a few years ago and your mother had slipped off to “get things ready for dessert” when you know she’s drinking the holiday wine. Your Uncle Bob has some pretty definitive ideas about how the country’s going—something about hell and a hand basket—and he’s pretty damn sure the fault is with brown people. Nanny Elma is just happy to be out of the nursing home for the day and quietly chews on her sweet potatoes while sitting in a cloud of her own digestive gas.

You turn back and see your nieces and nephews grabbing and giggling around that folding table—it’s the same one, with a different magazine tucked under the one leg to keep it stable—and you wish for the day when you didn’t know that big decisions weren’t actually made at the big table, when you didn’t know that the conversation wasn’t world-changing, when you didn’t know that it was all about petty family gossip and petty family squabbles. All the while, you’re screaming inside your head so you can make it through to Aunt Betty’s pumpkin pie.

Wait, Aunt Betty moved to Florida with her “friend.” There’s only store-bought pie. How are you even living right now?

Thanks for nothing, Aunt Betty. Have fun with Darlene in Boca, I guess.

A friend of mine mentioned that he was going to a “Friends-giving” over the break. “A Thanksgiving with just friends,” he said.

“Why not just call it Thanksgiving,” I asked.

It’s the family I have made that I am truly thankful for. Those friends, and some family that have been supportive and engaging and good for a laugh. Those people you have collected throughout your life that make the future seem brighter and the past just a good story to tell over drinks. That’s Thanksgiving.

Not Uncle Bob’s racist rants. Not Aunty Betty’s pie.

It’s the kids table, laughing and monkeying about, knowing full well that the issues of the day aren’t settled over dry turkey and can-shaped cranberry jello. They are solved in another place, at another time, and this moment, this moment is for giggles.

May your friends be happy, your food be warm, and your Thanksgiving table be small and wobbly.

Heather Flyte is a graduate student in English Literature at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. She is currently writing her thesis on the transfer of imperialism in the translation of Japanese folk tales. She is a non-traditional student who has previously worked in journalism and web development and plans to pursue doctoral work in Composition and Rhetoric.
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