A perfectly imperfect Thanksgiving. And smoke alarms. And Annie. And blackbottoms.

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.

If you are scoping out some Black Friday Deals today, I hope you’ll consider supporting indie and small businesses too. We’ve got a great round-up of the best small business Black Friday Deals at Cool Mom Picks.


21 thoughts on “A perfectly imperfect Thanksgiving. And smoke alarms. And Annie. And blackbottoms.”

  1. Both Dale and I had “training marriages”. Each was about 8 years long. Dale brought her 3 children to our “real marriage” that’s been going on for 35 years. I brought no children. No night reminds everyone of this more than Thanksgiving. We get our children and their children every other year. In the case of our son, now almost 50, we almost never get them.

    Last night was “our year” and so we rented the Townhouse at the Park Avenue Cafe for dinner for 32……….including our two daughters and their husbands and their 4 sons who are now between the ages of 10 and 15.

    We were joined by a cast of friends and their children and grandkids. That group changes each year, depending on what’s doing for them.

    It was a magical night as everyone is extremely social. One of Dale’s oldest friends was telling one of our grandsons about his Mother when she was his age…….good that our daughter wasn’t there to hear.

    Every two years. Hmmmmmmm.

    How I miss the days when Paul and I cooked turkeys, Stefan made stuffing, everyone brought something……..time passes……..we go through different stages in our lives.

    Missy was a little teary when her 15 year old, Zander, didn’t sit with her. He had gotten into a conversation with Dale’s old college friend Deane and wanted to continue through dinner. We joked that this wasn’t the last time he’d choose a different woman.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  2. As always, I’m laughing. And grateful. Thanks for sharing.

    What say you of the cousins who, at 35-44, still put on skits at family reunions, who can’t quite hand over the reigns to the younger generation??? (I suppose we did let them be in the commercials.)

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Your Thanksgiving sounds magical and wonderful. Can I join your family.

    PS. I *hate* Black Friday madness too.

  4. “I’d rather give my kids me every year. I’d rather give them us.” What a perfect thing to write, and pretty much the best gift you can give your kids for Christmas, Hannukah or any holiday.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

  5. Wow. I can honestly say I’ve never heard of anything quite as fun as Thanksgiving at your house. No wonder you’re not at Best Buy. We’ve always had dinner at 2pm – dessert at 330pm – maybe a little walk or throwing the football in front yard. Home by 6. Kids in bed by 700. Watch a movie or just go to bed. With only two kids in the family, the skits would be pretty hard to pull off though. Glad you had a good Turkey Day.

    1. Eh, it’s a Jew thing. We eat dinner at 5 or so which is “early.” The gentiles of the bunch think we’re crazy. But the in bed by 7 thing sound pretty darn good!

      One year, you’ll bring your two kids over and join our show Dina.

  6. So now my Thanksgiving with the inlaws in a dismal restaurant serving cardboard turkey and “pie” filled with apples from a can seems even more depressing. And I didn’t think that was possible.
    Thank goodness we took off after that for a weekend in New England that included just the four of us, baking cookies, sleeping in, going to a Gingerbread House festival, hiking around a lake, playing Clue, doing puzzles and roasting marshmallows in the fireplace.
    It wasn’t a spectacular show in a Girl Scout camp with extended family, but it worked for me!
    Happy Thanksgiving! (or in my case, dismal Thanksgiving, and Happy Thanksgiving Weekend)

  7. We rent a church hall for Thanksgiving. About 35 people show up. Everyone has a food assignment, so the cooking doesn’t fall to one or two people. After dinner, we play Bingo – a cutthroat game played with a timer, because when you get a Bingo, you don’t clear your card. For every Bingo, you get a wrapped small present. As time goes by, people get more and more and more bingos – sometimes three bingos from one called number. You do not open your presents during the game. Your competitors can steal your presents when they get a bingo. Only at the end (when we make sure everyone has at least one present) does the unwrapping begin. It is complete and utter chaos, and a lot of fun.

  8. There are 13 cousins in my family and the holiday “Talent” shows are some of our best memories. We did a great Barbie and the Rockers routine! We usually made the adults participate also. One year my mom’s 3 brothers were the Temptations, it was awesome! The cousins have all started having children of our own and we sincerely hope that they want to continue the “Talent” show tradition. So fun!

  9. My two sisters and I always pretended to be the Mandrell sisters. As the oldest, I was Barbara (of course). We would stand on the fireplace hearth and sing songs, and we wore high heels from the dress up box and we wore belts with our nightgowns to turn them into shorter dresses. I will have to remind them of this when we are all together at Christmas!

  10. The weather over Thanksgiving weekend was amazing and warm here in DC. No shopping for us (until Cyber Monday, of course)! We spent all weekend playing outside. I think Miss L is glad we took her to the park instead of evading pepper spray at the mall, even though she’s an ungrateful two-year-old, and would never tell me so.

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