Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my family. I’ve been married to the same woman now for almost 35 years and I have two wonderful daughters. But families never stop with just your spouse and kids. Not by a long shot.
I use the word peculiar, because if you add up all the in-laws and boyfriends and girlfriends and children that were born to the first wife, etc., well, that would explain the existence of the dining room leaf and the fact that the folding chair—which ordinarily is kept in the garage—was invented because of Thanksgiving to begin with.
So the larger the dinner crowd gets, the more the “quirks” of your family and friends become apparent. To compound this problem, the Thanksgiving Hallmark Movie of the Year or the dozens of “family” commercials that run during the holiday season always seem to paint the American family as the perfect, now outdated Norman Rockwell painting.
And that’s just not the way it is. So here’s a salute to the odd traits of my very own family and maybe you’ll be able to connect with a few of these. Some of the names have been changed to prevent embarrassment and let’s face it; I don’t want to tick off my wife before dinner. I want to make sure she saves enough hot buttery biscuits for me.
The early arrivers. Every family has the member who is always late and that most certainly is irritating. But not enough has been written about the “always early” arriving couple like my Aunt Helen and Uncle Pat. Pat and Helen are the couple that if you tell them dinner is 3 p.m., you can sure as heck expect that doorbell to ring no later than 2:15. Without fail my wife will still be putting her makeup on which means I have to answer the door wearing nothing but a towel. Which is not exactly a Justin Timberlake look for me these days. Often it’s freezing out and I’m standing in the doorway with no shirt or socks on. They always exclaim the same thing, “We thought we’d get here early and see if you need any help.” Which would be nice if my wife’s response from upstairs wasn’t always the same every November. “Oh, that’s OK, I’ll be right down. Make yourself at home.” I, on the other hand, have to resist like hell not replying, “Yeah, would you mind drying my back?”
Separate plates. My sister-in-law Rebecca likes a separate plate for everything she eats. That’s right. For everything. Now you know how crowded the Thanksgiving table gets, so the positioning on this quirk can get a little complicated. But at least over the years Rebecca has made it a bit easier on my wife by eating one dish at a time. When she’s done with the cranberries, she pushes herself from the table, puts that plate in the dish- washer, and then sits back down at the table with a new plate for her stuffing or whatever’s next. It’s one of these quirks no one even notices anymore.
Flirty grandpa. As much as the new girlfriend will be warned by whoever is bringing her, it still doesn’t prepare her for the onslaught of “flirty grandpa.” It would be one thing if there were no “grandma,” but there is. And grandma doesn’t appear to even notice that “flirty grandpa” always manages to sit down next to whatever woman is sporting the most cleavage as he endlessly reaches across her for peanuts, butter, a knife, absolutely anything on that table. He’s been making the same inappropriate remarks for over 20 years. In fact, there’s not a male relative of mine who hasn’t learned a move or two off grandpa. He’s the master. One Thanksgiving he even tried to talk everyone into going to Cheer- leaders on Route 130.
Sleepy cousin Carl. Carl is an insomniac and we could be talking about the weather in Arizona and somehow Carl will bring up that he can’t sleep without a TV and a fan on. Holiday after holiday, year after year, Carl has to remind us of this boring fact when absolutely no one ever brings it up or cares. We know, Carl, we know.
Patrice is on a diet. Did you know that for decades Oprah always had an on- call list of diet doctors to come on the show in case there was a last second cancellation? That’s because any discussion of diets always got good ratings. Believe me, I do not need this Oprah tidbit to know that this is true because Patrice has shown up at every Thanksgiving dinner on a diet. Every single one of them and I don’t even think she’s overweight. In fact, she’s very attractive. But within a minute of Patrice chatting up her latest diet she’s surrounded by all the women in the kitchen and off they’ll run talking carbs, Fitbits, workouts and making sure you don’t eat before you go to bed. Not that this bothers us dudes, who want to watch uninterrupted football anyhow. Rock on, Patrice, shed those pounds.
Annoying political Bob. What’s the old adage? “Never talk religion or politics at the dinner table.”Apparently, no one ever informed opinionated Bob who just loves getting the table in an uproar over issues that I know he really doesn’t care about. I wish I had recordings of Bob’s stupid opinions over the years because they change with the wind.
Quiet Marie. She absolutely never talks. One year she actually muttered “pass the salt” and we were stunned. She’s been mum for so long that no one remembers to whom she’s even related. Come to think of it, who is she related to?
Bad breath Richard. This is not a “quirk,” Richard. When you smell like that stretch of 676 in Camden on a humid summer night, it’s just plain ol’ disgusting. My daughter loves saying that one of these years when she’s setting the table she’s going to put a tube of toothpaste and toothbrush alongside his knife and fork. Brush your teeth, why don’t you?!
Happy Thanksgiving South Jersey, enjoy your family!
Big Daddy Graham is a renowned stand-up comedian and overnight personality on SportsRadio 94WIP. Check out his new podcast, Big Daddy’s Classic Rock Throwdown, at BigDaddyGraham.com.
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 8 (November, 2016).
For more info on South Jersey Magazine, click here.
To subscribe to South Jersey Magazine, click here.
To advertise in South Jersey Magazine, click here.