Friday, November 16, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. I was at the grocery store and bought food for Thanksgiving and forgot what people eat at the meal. Now, I'm not an idiot. I got the main stuff, Turkey, stuffing, gravy, potatoes and libations. I didn't get pie - your grandma is bringing that. Then I hit a bit of a wall. I'm not really sure what to make and serve for side dishes.
I'm missing a primary, integral ingredient to any Thanksgiving meal and I think it's due to the fact that it's only been the past two years we've had it at our house. I'm missing the plethora of relatives that all bring their 'signature' side dishes.
You know what I'm talking about.
We will have a large group of people here. Our family, the Johnson's, You and anyone lucky enough to tag along with you from Illinois, and maybe a few couples from our small group. This is still about a week to go - we may even have more show up. I don't know. What I do know, is that we don't have several great-aunt-Hilda types who bring their famous rhubarb trifle every year.
I need more great-aunt-Hilda's. Work on that for me.
Before my family grew beyond my long road trip patience capacity level, we used to go up to Green Bay and spend Thanksgiving with my family. I can tell you I miss the trip very much. It's really the only time, apart from yearly reunions, that we see each other. You're now probably thinking that since we have reunions every year that Thanksgiving isn't the ONLY time everyone gets together. Here's how this works. Since our family didn't used to have reunions every year, Thanksgiving was actually the only time everyone was able to get together. Since that was how things used to be, the yearly family reunions are merely riders on the bill of singular family togetherness gatherings.
Have I lost you yet? I'm a bit muddled myself. It makes sense when you're old. Sort of.
Anyway - dang this letter is way longer than I thought it would be - for a bit my Uncle Tom used to bring his girlfriend Kate to our Thanksgiving meals. She was a very nice and quiet person, and she was the Generalissimo of Thanksgiving side-dishes. There are so many side-dishes of wonderment I could regale you with, but one sticks out in my mind with vapid fervor. It was jello - wait for it - a completely decorated swimming pool with diving boards and teddy graham swimmers. BAM! Thanksgiving just got Thanksgivinger.
Now, I love my Uncle Tom very much. He is hands down the funniest person alive on the planet. He's very quiet, that's why you have to sit close. Something happens or somebody says something and he slides in a little comment that is so insipidly (I mean that in a good way) clever that I just burst with mirth. His girlfriend Kate never really said much. In fact, I never remember her saying anything really. Her silence was absconded only once every year. She was a conversational sniper that would make me jump once a year without fail. She did it with three words:
"I made this!"
The family used to admire her side-dish handiwork as a part of usual small talk. When this began to happen I would start looking over my shoulder. I knew it was coming. I just didn't know when. Suddenly, while I was pulling burning rolls out of the oven or something, a side comment on her food would make her gush forth is sudden totalitarian nationalist pride "I MADE THIS!"
It was like God after making the duck-billed platypus.
I love you much and miss you always,
Uncle Justin

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