December 14, 2005
There is perhaps nothing so special as a holiday dinner where a family can gather and create memories that last a lifetime. All my best holiday dinner memories, however, were created by other people’s families.
On his first leave from the Air Force, in December of 1968, one of my fellow students from language school went home and over the Christmas table said, “Hey, Grandma, pass the f**king salt.” When I shared this story with another vet, he confessed that he done much the same thing during WWII, asking his mother for the salt & pepper in the same customary chow hall manner. Oddly enough, both men were named “Frank” and they certainly were frank at Christmastime.
Another favorite comes from a Fourth of July in the Poconos, where my friend Penny had taken her boyfriend to spend the holiday with her parents. The family was dining late, so Penny and her beau went for a walk in the dusk, watched the stars come out, and returned just in time to be called to the table. Penny smiled across at her boyfriend, but he looked back at her in terror. Following his wide-eyed gaze, Penny saw that her t-shirt was inside-out, a mystery pretty easily solved by everyone at the table.
My absolute favorite though came from Ken, who with his cousins, longtime partners in mischief, stepped outside the house just before a Thanksgiving dinner to put an edge on their appetites in a smoky, herbaceous manner. In the midst of passing the peace pipe, they heard a mother’s voice saying, “Where are those boys?” They all rushed one last hit, hurried back inside and took their places at the table to say grace. After a chorus of “Amen,” they lifted their heads and one of Ken’s cousins burped loudly. As everyone’s head turned, a cloud of smoke rolled from his mouth.
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My friend Bob writes, “You’re right; the best holiday dinner memories aren’t usually in your typical Norman Rockwell setting. I can share one memory of a Thanksgiving dinner with my cousins. We had to sit at an old, wobbly-legged card table because the ‘adult table’ was full. There was me, my two cousins, Dave & Dan, and my brother Gerry. Inevitably one of us would try to do something to make the other laugh. I, being the main prankster, did something that caused convulsive-like laughter to come from my younger cousin Dan and in one explosive jolt from his body he managed to tip over the card table.
“But that’s not the best part. As my older cousin Dave tried to hold up the table, he gave out a snort-like laugh and a piece of corn came out of his nose! Parents were yelling expletives, we were in tears, and my sisters and girl cousin just looked on in disgust. And we still mention it to this day whenever we get together.”