It occurred to me last week that this would be the first Thanksgiving that I didn’t spend with my family. Even though Thanksgiving day is no longer what it once was, it still feels a bit strange.
Most of our Thanksgivings were spent at my Aunt Myrtle’s apartment in Brooklyn. We would all pile into the car (usually running late) and drive there. My parents would be arguing over something. My brother would have his Walkman. I’d try to fall asleep or read a comic book. When we got there, there wasn’t much for me to do. I was the youngest by seven years (my mother is the youngest of her siblings and I am her youngest). so there was never anyone for me to play with. At first, I would cling to my mother’s side but then I started retreating to one of the bedrooms to watch television. Everyone would sit in the living room drinking and laughing and I would be in a bedroom trying to watch “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” or WWF Survivor Series (until wrestling got ruined for me1).
I don’t remember how or when it started but it became an unofficial rule that I got the turkey leg. I don’t know why I always wanted it so bad. I probably bought into all the television Thanksgiving specials that made the turkey leg seem like a big deal. There were times that we arrived late and the leg was already taken. I would sulk and wouldn’t care about dinner at all (except for my aunt’s fried chicken which I was practically raised on). My aunt started to make sure than I got the leg no matter what. It would piss some of my cousins off but I didn’t care.
The last few years, when I lived in Harlem, I would take the subway to my aunt’s place. There used to be tons of people there but as people started their own families, they stopped coming or only stopping by for a little bit. I would get to the apartment and my aunt would greet me. She always pointed out that there was my favorite fried chicken and that they saved me the leg. I would grab my plate and take it to her bedroom to watch television with my father and brother (if he didn’t bail). I’d stay until the last football game ended and then try to head back into the city hoping to meet up with friends.
When I told Cindy about the whole turkey leg thing, she asked me if I wanted it this year. I declined. It’s not the same. I guess time to learn so new traditions.
1. I was watching a videotape of Survivor Series because we got there late and my cousin Glen kept putting it in slow motion to show me how The Ultimate Warrior wasn’t really connecting on any of his punches. I was crushed. It was the closest I had to a “there isn’t a Santa Claus moment” in my childhood.