I'd like to speak about Thanksgiving in a personal way for a minute. Then I'll share a Thanksgiving story I published two years ago in Brian Jaffe's Thanksgiving anthology, Thanksgiving Tales. It's actually a true story of one my family's traditions, and the first thing I published outside of school.
As I sit here writing this, I have much to be thankful for. Of course there is my wonderful, supportive family and friends who are my biggest cheerleaders and best fans. And all of my awesome blogger buddies. But this year I have a lot to be grateful for on the writing front. I've wanted to publish a book since I was just a little girl, and this year my debut novel is being published. It won't be out nationwide until January, but I've already ordered books and am distributing them prior to the official release date, so my dream has been realized and I am living it even as I sit here typing.
Also, my last day of work is the day before Thanksgiving. That's not by choice. I'm being laid off. I know that doesn't sound like something to be grateful for, but it might just be the best thing that ever happened to me. Because I'm being laid off, I'm receiving severance which will allow me to pay my bills until I get my feet under me. I intend to hit a LOT of vendor fairs and sell, sell, sell! I don't know what the future holds, but I believe I'm being given the opportunity to transition to a full-time author and support myself with my writing. I am SO grateful for that opportunity and for all I've learned over the past year about this business, this industry, and this art.
So here's my Thanksgiving story, and here's to many more years of giving thanks for the art of story-telling! (RMQ below!)
Hill vs. Hill vs. Hill
|My Awesome Family--Yup, there's 14 of us!|
I run the width of the field to make sure he’s all right. By the time I get there, he is laying on his back, facing the sky, body limp and limbs lifeless. It reminds me of the Farside joke about the boneless chicken farm. I would be worried except that he is laughing hysterically. Despite being pancaked into a chain link fence—and having the grid marks all over his right cheek to prove it--he’s managed to hold on to the football. When he finds the strength to stand, he holds it over his head victoriously and his team—consisting of our entire immediate family—cheers.
My uncle and cousins, who make up the other team, are muttering variations of “Aw, man!” and “Chump,” under their breaths, though not very quietly.
It’s the annual Hill vs. Hill Thanksgiving football game. A large fenced field almost directly next door to my parents’ house is the stage for the extravagant game. Our family of twelve kids and my Uncle Bryson’s family of nine—seven children—grew up together. Needless to say, our family get-togethers can be quite the circus.
On the next pass, my brother Nick throws a pass my way. It’s impeccable. He throws it with dead-on accuracy and I’m in the perfect spot to catch it. I don’t pretend to be the world’s greatest athlete, but I certainly know how to catch a football. I would have, too…if my cousin’s fiancée—who is two feet taller than I am—hadn’t come out of nowhere, lifted his arms slightly to reach a height I can’t touch jumping, and plucked the football nonchalantly from the air.
And suddenly, I’m the bad guy!
“Oh come on, Liesel, jump for those!”
“Aw, man! Why’d you let him get the interception?”
“Someone needs to grow some longer arms…”
“Hey,” I holler, “it’s not my fault I’m vertically challenged. It’s Mom’s fault. And Grandpa Conger’s!”
No one’s listening anymore, so I shrug and take my place for defense.
Nick, great quarterback though he is, was perhaps my parents’—and by extension our family’s—greatest trial. He dropped out of school in junior high and put my parents through several hellish years of bad choices, cops, courts, runaway lists, frustration, and heartache. My parents never stopped loving him, but they had to let him go and let him learn the hard lessons of life on his own. He was picked up on light drug charges and petty theft, and spent several years in and out of juvy.
What he saw and experienced there scared him enough to finally start getting his life together. He was now living with his girlfriend and several other disreputable persons, but he had a steady job, had gotten himself and his girlfriend clean, and was expecting a baby—my parents’ first grandchild—by her.
Despite the worry, heartache, and occasional resentment we all felt while he was doing his teenaged rebellion thing, we were all so glad to see him finally on a path of progression, rather than regression, that the previous feelings and experiences were all but forgotten.
The last five years or so has been hard on the entire family. We've had our fair share of trials, as every family does. Financial difficulties plagued everyone, with the economy in ruin and then there were the run-of-the-mill broken hearts, car accidents, and other dramas that plagues everyday life.
This year, for the first time in a long while, things are looking up. Everyone is finally comfortable with their living situation, my brother is finally starting to turn his life around, everyone seems to be making ends meet, and even the economy is improving.
Even if there were still a lot of drama, though, it wouldn't matter. Our annual football game is a time when we can all kick back, have some fun, and leave the world behind us.
When we get the ball again—it doesn't take long as they score in embarrassingly record time—we all huddle up to discuss the play.
“Nice cuddle…I mean huddle,” my teenaged cousins yell. We ignore them.
“Everyone understand what they’re going to do?” My dad is asking.
“So,” eleven-year old Bob says, “I’m just going to go up through there, right?” As he asks, he turns and points his finger, showing the other team exactly what our play was going to be.
My dad rolls his eyes and begins reworking the play while my uncle falls into a fit of hyena hysterics twenty feet away.
In the years following, Bob will get into trouble at school a lot. Nothing out of the way of normal teenaged brain damage and rebellion, but he, along with his older brother Tim, will have his turn putting his family through the ringer. The incident that took the cake was when the two of them snuck out of the house, stole my dad’s car, and went joy riding at three o’clock in the morning. The cops brought them home.
Now, however, they laugh and wrestle and horseplay around with their brothers and cousins, without a care in the world.
When us girl cousins get tired of the boys hogging the ball, we sometimes just walk up and down the field, talking and visiting and catching up. Despite growing up together and being close when we were little, we are all adults now and have our own lives and friends. Consequently, we rarely see each other except at family holidays and reunions.
My sister McKensie and her husband, Roy, have driven from Vegas for the day. Mckensie was the first to get married, which made her the guinea pig. It took the entire family, especially the brothers, quite a while to accept Roy into the clan. Even now it’s a work in progress, but progressing we are.
My sister, Tina, and I room together at college, and neither of us have ever been the rebellious type. However, we’re both over twenty-five and unmarried, to my mother’s everlasting shame. Today, though, we visit with our sisters and cousins.
When the game is finished—they win, but we’ll never admit that—we all head toward the house. My Grandma Adams is waiting on the porch with her wide, warm eyes, easy smile, and big teddy bear hugs.
During dinner, dessert, and afterward, there will be lively conversation—dominated by my two loud-mouthed brothers, who really should have been entertainers rather than salesmen—the same old jokes and reminiscences told, and a great deal of fun.
The year before David, the oldest boy, almost made a disastrous marriage—like Jane Austin disastrous—but was saved in the nick of time. Now, happily, he’s married to a charming girl that the entire family is in love with.
For us, Thanksgiving has never been about food, though that is a happy bonus. It’s never been about pilgrims or Indians or turkey. We sometimes go around in a circle and say what we’re thankful for, but even that is a secondary concern.
Random Movie Quotes (RMQ)!
Don't know what this is? Click on the tab at the top of the page.
Last week's RMQ was: "Life is a cookie." This was said by Alan Arkin in the film America's Sweethearts. No one guessed this one.
Today's RMQ is:
"Oh dear. You really are an uptight bastard, aren't you? You can drop the thousand-yard stare. I've seen it all before, and I'm not impressed."
Sorry for the cuss word, but this is actually a very humorous line in the film. One point for character, one for actor, one for movie title. Good luck! :D