Thanks giving and bloodshed
Thanksgiving is one of the two big holidays around the King house (the other being Memorial Day.) My brother and his family come down from Portland, my sister and her husband are parked in the drive in their motor home, my niece and her kid, my nephew and a partner, my mother and this year both of my own kids assemble for the annual tryptophan bash. My sensible husband finds Pakistan a congenial retreat, this time of year.
When I was young and lived in the southern part of the Bay Area (Santa Cruz, San Jose) we used to drive to my aunt’e2’80’99s house in Mill Valley just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Now, THAT woman had a bash. Never less than twenty people, most of them related somehow, although there were generally a few friends who had nowhere else to go (poor innocents, little did they know’e2’80’a6) By the time we got there, the house was heavy with the smell of roasting turkey, kids were running in and out in all directions, and the dogs were going wild. My mother would find a quiet corner and get to work on the peas or potatoes, whatever needed doing, my father would find the men with the beer, and my sister and brother and I would join the younger generation.
It was a superb house for the purpose, with many separated rooms so you never felt you were in a crowd, and a lot of doors so you could get away from whatever adult was pursuing you with a scolding or a job. There were upstairs sleeping porches, a bedroom with snakes and lizards (the boy’e2’80’99s), another with a wealth of doll-oriented objects, and most thrilling, a laundry chute, down which memorably one year one of the dogs fit (there was a large heap of dirty laundry underneath, fortunately.
But the real entertainment began after dinner. Those who had been drinking all afternoon, mostly male, would adjourn to the street outside for a game of ‘e2’80’9cKick the Can.’e2’80’9d I have no idea of the rules after all these years, but the main purpose seemed not to involve rules, it seemed to involve bloodshed. Children simply did not play, it was too dangerous. Grown men would trickle in over the ninety minutes or so before the light failed, requiring nursing. One year we had not only a broken wrist, but a broken Rolex’e2’80’94which did not belong to the same wrist.
I the meantime, the more sober members of the afternoon had put away the food and finished the dishes, but before they could make their escape, they would be caught by my aunt for a game of what she called by the innocuous name of Multiple Solitaire. I think this is also known as Racing Demons, but might as well have been called Kill, and if less actual blood was shed over the cleared dining table than in the street outside, it wasn’e2’80’99t for lack of trying.
The idea, if you haven’e2’80’99t encountered this form of warfare, is that everyone gets a deck and lays it out to play solitaire, but is not limited by the deck in front of them. And there are eighteen or twenty people seated around the table. This means that the person with the sharpest eyes, fastest throwing arm, and loudest voice goes through her cards first. The unsure or the unfit leisurely turn over a card, and the instant that red ten touches the table, five adults leap to their feet and fling black nines on top, shouting furiously all the while.
As childhood traumas go, this is a lasting one.
I wish you all the best for Thanksgiving, and for the overseas readers of this blog, now you know what you have to give thanks about.