Thanksgiving at Aunt Doreen’s
By Diane Sesler
“GOODNESS!” It’s Aunt Doreen the Red Q-Tip queen. She’s a stick with a head shaped like an ear cleaner. Her fluffed up hair is orangey-red. She’s unstable like a table missing a leg. She is the biggest nut in this family-size bag.
“What’s happened to you? You’ve lost sooooo much weight!” Her aqua contact lenses are popping out of her face. Her large protruding neck veins match the color of her eyes. “Hon,“ she says to me, “Have you been sick?” I want to pitch her sweet potato casserole all over her holiday-themed outfit.
My husband Jack pulls me away towards the next crazy-maker. “Hey, Cousin Tony — how are you?” I don’t care. We are both wearing our polite hats. His nickname is Puff Daddy. He flashes his yellow piano keys at me. Whiskey the cat is on the counter eating marshmallows off the sweet potato dish. Puff Daddy moans, groans and coughs about his life. Cousin Tony had a double lung transplant. He smells. He still puffs his life away.
Jack is hugging the wine bottle we brought. I snatch it out of his folded arms. “It’s ‘let’s get happy’ time,” I whisper to him. He rolls his eyes. I pour. I drink. I see Queen Q-Tip swatting Whiskey off the counter.
Ah, yes… here comes Sweet Church Mama Betty. She dresses her kids like twins. Their shiny black hair is perfectly coiffed to the left of their head. They are wearing pants with stripes, stiff white shirts and university professor bows. I feel like popping the elastic off their neck. The wine is kicking in. “Well, hello, Jacob and Joseph. How are my favorite little nephews?” Their robotic politeness dial is on. “We are well.” They spin around and I see Jacob putting his finger down his throat.
Church Mama Betty looks at me with disgust. Our dots have never connected. “How are you, dear?” she says to me. “Oh, verrrrrry well, Shooweet Betty” I slur back at her. “Still baking those cross-shaped cookies for the homeless?” She’s getting good at ignoring me.
Aunt Dora is sitting next to the turkey. Last year’s bird tasted like sandpaper. Uncle Jay is basting the new victim. He sees me. “GET IN HERE AND GIMME A HUG,” he says with over-the-top enthusiasm. His hearing aid is off again. Louie is licking my leg while Uncle Jay hugs me too hard. Louie is a stray Aunt Dora found in a garbage can when he was a pup. I push him off me. My leg is sticky with foamy saliva.
I wish Aunt Dora wasn’t near the bird. She’s been wearing the same hat for ten years and always has a band-aid on her forehead. No one knows why. No one ever asks. She’s never spoken since her husband Harry left her. Aunt Dora doesn’t look hygienic.
It’s time. Our little clown parade moves to the dining room table. Puff Daddy wheezes out a prayer: “We thank our Lord for being here together today…” His mail order bride Susan has a proud smile on her face. She is wearing a skin tight purple skirt with a shiny blue polyester top. She’s a badly dressed professional karaoke singer. We all hide her karaoke box when she visits. One more glass of wine and I may enjoy her Song Sung Blue for the fiftieth time.
We are passing around the food. I wave the sweet potatoes away. A cat hair is in the dish. I’m tipsy. My lips are becoming a loose cannon.
It’s never been done. It shoots right out of my mouth. “Why do you wearrrrr a band-aid allll duh time on your forehead, Aunt Dora?”
Aunt Dora looks calm. Her chubby right hand slowly climbs up to her forehead.
The band-aid is off. Sounds of horror… gagging noises. The fake twins are screaming. Church Betty is reciting prayers trying to calm the boys. Puff Daddy Tony is coughing at me that I have ruined everyone’s day. Q-Tip Queen is glaring at me with her hands on her flat hips. Jack is drinking the rest of the wine. The cat is hissing. The dog is licking Susan’s shoe while she is trying to convince everyone that karaoke will solve the unpleasant situation.
Aunt Dora’s forehead is displaying a large bumpy, hairy, and purplish growth. It is not pretty. It doesn’t belong at the dinner table. It’s an eggplant gone bad.
The entire clan has gone to different parts of the house except for Aunt Dora and me. She opens her purse and takes out a band-aid. She slaps the fresh one on her head. Just like that. The riot is over.
She is looking at me.
Then, it happens. She leans in closer to me. Her lips are moving. She smirks and says “The hat is next year.”
I’m in shock. Aunt Dora stands up and leaves me alone with the half-eaten dry bird. I’m giving the marshmallow addicted cat a shove off the table. Everyone has their coats on and making upside down smiles at me as they shove out the front door. I hear Jack apologizing for my behavior. “She didn’t mean it. She just had a bit too much to drink. Please come back.”
Uncle Jay says it might be best we be on our way too. He has a migraine. I zigzag my way towards Uncle Jay. He looks blurry. “I’m so sorry Uncle Lay. Can I get you an ashprin?” Jack is mumbling and trying desperately to shove my arms into my coat. “Thanks Uncle Vay for cooking the crunchy turkey. I loooove you, the turkey and…” I feel a light slap at the back of my head. Jack is pushing me out the door.
“That was fun! I think it went vurrrreee well this year don’t you, honey bunny Jack?”