Thursday marks the day when most Yankee Doodle Dandies honor and celebrate everything they've been blessed with since the same holiday last year. We call it Thanksgiving and it's supposed to be the day we put away our family differences -- and those of our friends, too, if they're invited. We eat our fill of artificially plumped up turkey and blame L-tryptophan for falling asleep during a crucial play of the football game. While most people eat turkey, some eat lasagna or baked ham. Or, if they're vegetarian, perhaps a tasty roasted tofurkey served with celery root & sage mash and basmati rice stuffing, slathered with lentil and sunflower sprout gravy thickened with quinoa flour. Organic, of course. Me? I'm a traditionalist.
Oh... It's almost time for dinner. And you're there...
“OK, who's going to say the prayer?”
“I did it last year.”
“No, you didn't. Aunt Tessie did and she's no longer with us.”
“Oh yeah, poor Aunt Tessie...”
Someone always volunteers.
“OK, dig in!”
And the hustle and bustle of banging, clanging dishes and silverware begins...
“Could you pass the mashed potatoes?”
“They're coming around. We're passing everything clockwise.”
“Then why is the stuffing going around counter-clockwise?”
“Idiot. That's not stuffing, that's dressing. There's a difference.”
“Mom, [name redacted] called me an idiot.”
“I like white meat.”
“Oooooo, baby, I've always been a dark meat man.”
“Oh, that's so racist.”
“Hey, you know I prefer dark meat. How dare you say that! I like it because it's got a much better flavor and it's moister.”
“So is white meat if you don't overcook it, and dark meat has more fat.”
"You are so sensitive."
The munchfest is in full swing...
"Here's to Aunt Tessie!"
“Does anyone else like Hillary?”
“I'm all for Trump.”
“No talking politics at the table, please!”
“You have to be politically correct.”
“Like hell I do!”
“Watch your language. Don't swear at the dinner table. No talking politics!”
You are, after all, in the "Safe Space" du jour, right? And you're all adults. Suddenly, the food passing is not as harried.
“Why do you always have oysters in your stuffing?”
“That's the dressing. The stuffing doesn't have oysters.”
“What's the difference?”
“Stuffing goes in the bird. Dressing is baked in the oven.”
“Oh, I didn't know that!”
“I prefer the jell...”
“Hey, what's the score of the Eagles game?”
“You mean Detroit? They've been playing on Thanksgiving long before the Eagles ever did.”
“We don't care.”
“I just know that the Panthers are going to slaughter the Cowboys. Worse than the fate of this turkey we're eating.”
“As I was saying, I prefer jellied cranberry sauce.”
“Oh, NO! It's got to be whole berry.”
“Who cares, it's all junk.”
As food is fully served, the conversations taper off because everyone has all they need and they are at peace with their plates, now savoring every bite. The room goes quiet and calm because everything is delicious. All you can hear is slight chewing, sipping, and knife blades scraping across dishes. Everyone is concentrating on the meal.
Except you. You're the smart aleck. With a stealthy slither, you slide your water glass, ever so slowly, away from your area in half inch increments. You're in a fiesty, festive mood and you've decided to take aim at your brother's placemat. This is going to be fun. He won't see you...
Between your space and everyone else's is the neutral zone in the middle of the table, the place with platters of food. If the green bean dish abuts your space, it's OK because the table is filled with a cornucopia of food. That means seconds and, maybe, thirds, but you've got to save room for pie. Every dish in the neutral zone is fine; however, if your glass touches someone else's space like their placemat? Look out! It can turn into a real border skirmish.
Inch by inch, millimeter by millimeter, you edge it closer and closer until, finally, it touches your brother's imaginary space, including his placemat! He never saw it until now. He immediately reacts.
"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING??? THAT'S MY SPACE. GET IT OUT OF HERE! GET IT OFF MY PLACEMAT!!!"
The psychological warfare you just instigated is underway, but you merely wanted to have fun. Over the river and through the woods turned into tom turkey tomfoolery and it's no laughing matter now. Not usually one to stir the gravy, you did it anyway, and your brother wants to gobble your giblets alive.
"Hey, I was just kidding."
You try to soften things, but the damage is done.
"I have my space and you have yours. That's where it belongs. Move it NOW!"
And you promptly retreat. Oddly, it's not really his space or his placemat. Not even the glasses. You are merely guests in someone else's house. Did you infringe? You betcha!
Of course, this is pure fiction, but I have tried the glass ploy on family members and friends. Some have ignored me while others have gotten somewhat upset. But there's a point to my story. We chat, we get along, we disagree. When it comes to personal safe space, people take it, well, personally. And seriously. These private areas vary from person to person, too, yet, if something as simple as this can stir raw emotions in families, imagine what it's like in the real world, with real borders and real testosterone-laden leaders, for Crimean out loud!
Thanksgiving is a most passive holiday, one spent with relatives and friends, yet look at how easy it is to upset our own flesh and blood. How can we expect the world to see eye-to-eye, where countries willingly take property and borders away from each other with impugnity, day after day? They kill over it and don't blink.
"I'm sorry. You can have my pie."
"I don't want your pie. I can get my own."
"You guys??? Was this really worth starting an argument over?"
"OK, I'm finished. Let's go watch the game. That's where the real battle is taking place."
"Am I excused?"
You and some of the others retire to the TV room, where you vie for the best chairs. It's a subtle kind of friendly dance. You find one. Do you offer it to your brother?