your dinner table.
A lot of people find Thanksgiving a super-family-oriented holiday. When I worked for a realtor's answering service, there were fewer people calling to buy houses on Thanksgiving than on any other day, even Christmas. But at our house (maybe because there weren't that many of us to begin with; maybe because of that whole Pilgrim-Indian-brotherhood-hospitality thing), we often had Thanksgiving dinner with people I barely knew, whom my mom invited out of the goodness of her heart.
The open-door policy might also have come from the fact that we were a "blended" family decades before it was chic. Our empowered, unflappable women solve problems by hopping freight trains, assaulting attempted rapists, threatening to hit street toughs with a Saturn sedan, or, if necessary, divorcing somebody.
So the list of ingredients in the family purée grew with time: half-siblings, a few stepparents, some real pieces of work who share my gene pool, and a few genuine treasures who don't. One of the latter, Grandma C., was a statuesque redhead whose elegance was sometimes mistaken for unreachable standards. She could seem, therefore, intimidating, but the tension all dissolved the year someone forgot to whip the potatoes before we sat down to eat, which somehow (aided, perhaps, by the application of wine) led to four grown women and an electric mixer squished into a galley kitchen, flecked with fluffy, warm spuds and gasping with laughter.
But it got weirder the year my siblings were out of town and I decided to host Misfit Thanksgiving -- a dinner party of assorted Phoenix artists who couldn't or wouldn't spend the day with their own families and chose to spend it together -- at my house and include my parents and their own holiday orphan: a lonely, unhappy former neighbor entirely without inhibitions, which is kind of a cool combo when you think about it. We'll call her Roxie. She was also really big, like maybe 400 pounds or more.
Misfit Thanksgiving started off on the right foot when the resident vegetarian, five months pregnant, found herself irresistibly craving turkey, so I knew we'd have actual food that everyone would eat. Another guest made a fabulous mushroom soup in a huge pot I didn't know at the time he'd shoplifted for the occasion. (I owned a huge pot, but anarchy still confuses me.) In the interest of scrupulous accuracy, I believe I heard he snuck the pot back into the store later on.
Vittles-wise, it was good. And my parents had traveled with and been adored by many of these misfits for years already. Several small tables in our family room made for cozy conviviality. Then came the after-dinner chitchat.
My husband remembers Roxie dropping the n-word at least once. I remember a conversation about the details of washing oneself -- how, how do these things start? -- and Roxie explaining to my comparatively tiny shoplifting friend, whom she had trapped against one end of the sofa, how well a handheld shower head worked for rinsing off her "down-there." God bless us every one.
San Antonio Eggnog
Creamy, sweet, and soothing, with a kick. Helps any family get better blended.
1 half-gallon good-quality storebought eggnog
1 half-gallon lowfat chocolate milk
1 pint crème de cacao liqueur
Combine and serve cold, topped with grated nutmeg.