My Best Thanksgiving Memory

a huge dinner, my family, and a busted Nerf ball

 

I remember the year the Nerf football broke clean in half. It was hilarious. My cousin was quarterbacking and seconds after yelling, “Hike!” he just wailed that thing into the chilly night sky – and it basically burst in two. We’re not sure if it was the sheer force of his epic throw or the giant hole left in the ball after a dog had chewed it up. All we know is this: one foam projectile went up. Two came down. And I thought I was going to throw up from laughing so hard. It was the kind of thing 11-year-old boys live for.

Actually, I probably should have thrown up. I’d just eaten enough turkey and Stove Top Stuffing to choke a goat – just being outside and moving around was a miracle in and of itself. But this was Thanksgiving. This was playing football with my cousins on my grandma’s farmyard. This was something I looked forward to every single year, and no amount of roasted bird meat was going to get in my way.

Actually, I probably should have thrown up. I’d just eaten enough turkey and Stove Top Stuffing to choke a goat – just being outside and moving around was a miracle in and of itself.

As astute readers will have gathered by now, I was not an athletic child. Unless when you say “athletic” you mean “chubby.” But grandma’s house was a place I could at least try to be athletic without fear of schoolyard ridicule. I loved the post-feast football games with my cousins. Under the big oak trees and the starlit sky, we could be anything we wanted to be. We could marvel at each others huge tackles and amazing catches. We could make stupid jokes. We could laugh so hard our ears hurt just because an ancient, crusty Nerf ball finally broke apart – miraculously – in mid flight. I think we actually played a game with the larger Nerf chunk after Christmas dinner that year, and maybe the next.

That was just one small part of those holiday dinners. At my grandma’s house, nothing was real fancy. The kids usually ate on a couch in the tiny living room, drinking Kool-Aid from old plastic cups. The potatoes were just boiled. The pumpkin pie was made from the recipe on the can. But all year long I’d wait for that night, and to me it eventually became darn near mythical. I remember bragging about it to my classmates, about how much fun playing football with cousins was, not realizing that they probably did the exact same thing.

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