Thanksgiving was always a fun affair in the Harris household. Every year someone new would host a gathering of every family member that could make it for dinner and drinks and games and conversation. It’s always nice to see the whole family hanging out and telling stories about what’s been going on in their lives since we all saw each other last. And the excellent food is just a bonus. I remember one Thanksgiving, however, that saw us gathered in a very different place for a very different reason and very thankful for one thing in particular.
It was one of the Thanksgivings we were hosting at our house. My sister and I had been put to work early that morning by our parents, helping to clean up the house and put extra chairs everywhere for the large group of people we were about to entertain. We worked for a good long time, stopping only for a minute to duck in and take a taste of the stuffing without our mother catching us. A little later in the afternoon, after everything had been perfectly prepared, our guests began to arrive.
There were aunts, uncles, and cousins from both sides of the family. Dad’s dad, Grandpa Joe showed up, and both of mom’s parents arrived last. Grandma Georgina, who we call GiGi, was dressed in her best tracksuit and my sister couldn’t help snapping a selfie with her to post on Instagram. Everyone found a seat just fine, and I was in charge of taking everyone’s coat to one of the bedrooms for safekeeping. When I arrived back in the living room, I found everyone in a lively debate over which college my sister should attend, which she looked to be thoroughly enjoying, so I snuck around to an open seat in the corner. I didn’t exactly enjoy the idea that they might latch on to what I should be doing after graduation and figured it might be best to go unnoticed until we’d navigated the conversation onto a safer topic.
It didn’t take long before an entirely new topic was introduced to draw everyone’s attention to something far more important. It was time to eat. Slowly but surely, all the family members immigrated from the living room into the dining room where it was a bit tighter of a squeeze to fit everyone, but my mother insisted we all get nice and close. Once everyone was seated, the passing of the food began. All kinds of dishes and bowls of every Thanksgiving food you could imagine were handed from person to person until everyone around the table had gotten everything they wanted, or at least everything they could fit on their plate. It was a bit of a mess, to be honest, but somehow we managed to get everything settled back on the table without any major spills or accidents.
The meal was delicious, too. Everything was warm and tasted great. Even with how much food everyone ate, I could already tell we were going to be eating leftovers for weeks. And I didn’t mind one bit. Clearly, none of my family members did either, if the overjoyed looks on their faces were anything to go by. By the time everyone had stuffed themselves too full to keep eating, some of the younger kids in the family were begging us to start playing games already. It was a little difficult for everyone to move after such a huge meal, but my little cousins’ enthusiasm was enough to get us to try.
In our search for a fun game to play, we sifted through board games and card games and video games, until a little white ball fell out from behind the Jenga box. Everyone immediately knew exactly what to play. We all hustled downstairs and gathered around the ping pong table and watched as the little cousins picked up the paddles and began the first game. It was a riveting competition, and everyone was cheering for each new point one of the little ones scored. My sister had already called that she would be playing the winner, so the second the first game had ended, the second was about to begin.
We kept cycling through games like that, one after another, until the seventh game when GiGi decided she wanted a turn. Needless to say, the family was a little shocked, but Grandma had her tracksuit on, and she was ready to play. She took up her paddle and served the ball across the little table tennis net, and the game was on.
There were a few good volleys back and forth at first, GiGi working hard to impress the family with her skills. And then a ball from Uncle Fred went a little wide. And Grandma Georgina tried a little too hard. She went for the ball so fast, and she could quite step on the brakes fast enough, sending her crashing into the china cabinet on the wall. She looked fine at first, but she could walk straight when we tried, and she started to complain about her head. Obviously, we were all off to the hospital in the blink of an eye.
The nurses took GiGi into an examination room to run some tests while the family huddled together in the waiting room. It felt like forever until a doctor came out and told us that we could see our grandma. We all filed into a room where she was sitting on the bed, looking a little dazed but otherwise fine. The doctor explained that she really was fine, aside from a minor concussion, but that he and the nurses were going to do everything they could to make sure she was able to come home with us and get better quickly.
It was a memorable Thanksgiving, to say the least, but it reminded us just how thankful we are for the opportunity to spend time with our family. Grandma came home with us a few hours later and got an extra slice of pumpkin pie and to top it all off before she left she made sure to tell Uncle Fred that she’d see him in a table tennis rematch at Christmas.