Toughing it out on Turkey Day

Kevin Cowherd

November 22, 1993|By Kevin Cowherd

I'll never forget the wonderful Thanksgiving of '61, when we all jumped in the car for the trip to Aunt Pat's and Dad backed down the driveway smack into a blue Plymouth.

"Dammit, Bill!" my mom said, but Dad was already out of the car, jawing at the other driver, who turned out to be an off-duty cop.

Our rear bumper was caved in pretty bad. Dad was plenty steamed and didn't say a word all the way to Chappaqua. We sat in traffic for an hour on the bridge while he drummed his fingers furiously on the --board. You could almost see the smoke pouring out his ears.

When we finally got to Aunt Pat's, the adults gathered around the kitchen table and the kids ran outside to play on the swings. About five minutes later, my cousin Bernadette let go of the swing and it caught my younger brother Stephen on the bridge of the nose.

Well, there was blood spurting all over the place, and sure enough the little baby started screaming. Everyone in the house ran outside and my aunt yelled to my father: "Bill, you better run him up to the emergency room, see if he needs stitches!"

They came back an hour and a half later. Dad collapsed into a chair and said: "What the hell else can go wrong?"

Then he downed three glasses of wine in about five minutes and lit a cigarette. His hands were shaking badly.

Finally we sat down to dinner. The turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes were delicious, although by this point we were all waiting for someone to start choking violently on a bone or something.

After dinner, we were all stuffed and people started lumbering into the living room. There was a football game on TV, the Detroit Lions against somebody, I think. It was about 110 degrees in the house and you couldn't open any of the windows -- they were nailed shut on account of my aunt's asthma.

Anyway, one by one, people began to nod off. Finally the only ones awake were me and Uncle Mike, who felt compelled to start a conversation.

"So, you're in fifth grade, eh?" he said.

"What's the point of school, anyway?" I said. "All you do is listen to all these stupid teachers talk about stupid stuff you'll never need in life. Like who cares about the Lewis and Clark Expedition?"

He didn't say anything after that. Then pretty soon he was pulling a quilt around himself and he dropped off, too.

Well, I wasn't going to sit there by myself watching football. The other kids were outside, but I decided to go upstairs and find my cousin Willie's Playboys.

I didn't know where he hid them, so I searched under his bed and behind the bookshelf. Finally I found them way back in his closet. But when I grabbed one and stood up, I slammed my forehead against a coat hook and raised a knot the size of a tangerine over one eye.

I was so woozy I thought I was going to black out right there, but I managed to stumble back downstairs.

The football game was almost over, not that anybody cared at this point. I certainly didn't, not with blurred vision and a possible concussion.

About an hour later, everyone in the living room began stirring. Finally my aunt yawned and stretched and wiped this little stream of drool from her chin with a Kleenex.

"Anybody hungry?!" she chirped.

So we all lumbered into the kitchen for more turkey and another slice of mince pie, which was exactly what we needed at that point. If you listened closely, you could actually hear arteries clogging. I thought we might have someone keel over right there into a plate.

Finally Dad started looking at his watch, which was a hint for Mom to say: "Well, I guess we better be going . . . "

So we said thanks and good-bye, and piled into the car for the ride home. My old man was still half-lit from the wine, you could tell. Finally after he'd driven a couple blocks and nearly sheared off three mailboxes, Mom made him pull over so she could drive.

The rest of the ride was a nightmare. It was rainy and foggy on the expressway and these huge trucks kept roaring up behind us and flashing their lights, mainly because Mom was doing 35 miles an hour in the center lane.

"For crissakes, Noreen, give it some gas!" Dad shouted.

Which was when Mom started crying. My head was pounding and I thought I was going to be sick. We missed our exit on the Thruway and had to go all the way up to Kingston and double back.

Pulling into the driveway, Mom got a little too close to the elm tree and the car's antenna snapped off.

I ran inside and took a couple of Alka-Seltzers and went to bed.

Memories like these, they last a lifetime.

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