Robin’s Chicks: Thanksgiving
My sister’s baby in my brother’s arms. My daughters squealing in delight as their aunt sings and their uncle tickles. I jokingly wave a butcher knife at anyone willing to cross the threshold into the kitchen while I cook. My Momma has semi-retired from the kitchen to play with her grandkids and this Thanksgiving I gladly accepted the reins.
My brother, brother-in-law and husband watch football and drink beer. They walk children down to the pond to throw bread crumbs at catfish. Meanwhile my sister, sister-in-law, my mother and I spin and twirl in a choreographed kitchen ballet.
My mother sets down a spoon from stirring gravy and crosses to the kitchen in front of the oven. My sister-in-law bends gracefully at her waist to check our baking confections. My sister pulls her naked Bundt cake closer to her on the counter and glances into the bowl of homemade chocolate frosting. She doesn’t even have to ask, as I open the silverware drawer to grab a spoon and snag a knife to pass it to her. With a smile she accepts and begins icing the cake, slipping a spoonful to my daughter under the table.
The kids play with only a few squabbles to interrupt. It easy to spot which child belongs to each of my siblings. We all have little clones of ourselves, my brother’s daughters have his almost black hair and his wife’s dark eyes. My sister’s children have her eyes and a button nose so cute that I sometimes have to physically restrain myself from biting them. My girls are the ones with freckled noses and white-blond curls streaming in their wake. It’s easy to see where our kids came from, but it’s even easier to see that they belong together.
My Momma prepped the dressing, sweet potatoes, and other dishes to be served. I manned the stove, spinning, twirling and passing spoons around as we all cooked the day of the big meal. My sister and I watch our children and our mother through the floor-length windows. They hover around her outside squealing and laughing until she shoos them away.
I found the meaning of Thanksgiving curled up in a bed on one of our last evenings. I found my middle child, Emma, curled together with my niece Ella Grace. They looked like infants in utero— one of them a photo, the other the negative. Emma’s head rested snugly on Gracie’s shoulder, her white blond waves poured on top of Gracie’s dark, silky straight locks— like cream poured into coffee but not yet stirred.
I kissed my child’s sleeping head. Everything was familiar. Her smell, the feel of her skin and my hand on her hair. I leaned over to kiss my brother’s sleeping child, her smell was just as sweet but different from the scent of my own kids. As I straightened the covers to tuck them in, they shifted in their sleep then resettled. Those yen and yang heads pressed together.
It’s slightly unfamiliar to me. I don’t know what my sister’s six-month-old wants when she cries. But I’ve learned this week that she thinks my brother is hilarious and can be temporarily distracted by him. I don’t know what my brother’s baby wants when she yells up at me for “GUG-GUG.” But I’ve learned a cookie or a small bag of Cheetos will suffice.
At the first function my family has had where we can all attend in overseven years, it didn’t feel familiar. But it felt easy, unbroken and comfortable.
It felt like family. And for that, I am thankful.