Archive for Tuesday, November 21, 2000

A Thanksgiving ‘no passing zone’ is needed

November 21, 2000

When I was young, my relatives told me that I'd grow smarter each year. I looked forward to this. "Next year I'll be able to solve long division problems. Next year I'll memorize the periodic table. Next year I will understand what the person is saying over the grocery store intercom."

This theory made a lot of sense, because my grandparents seemed like the smartest people alive. They filled out crossword puzzles like lottery tickets. They never asked for directions. They read like inmates, and they watched public television. I figured that in 50 years, I might just make the high school honor roll.

Just as they said, I have learned and grown over the years. I've figured out that stepping on gum results in sitting on the porch and tracing the treads of my shoes with a butter knife. I've learned that hitting my sister means no television for a week. But there is one thing that has taken me a very long time to figure out. I've suffered for years, but now I can confidently articulate the dangers of sitting next to women at Thanksgiving.

For some unexplained reason, the women in my family do not have any feeling in their hands. This fact becomes clear during the holiday season, especially Thanksgiving, when we sit around the table among plates, pans, pots and bowls of steaming food. We eat our dinner family style, because the pilgrims did, and for years, I sat in between my two grandmothers. They are beautifully tender women, but they have hands of steel. They can pass charcoal briquettes and not flinch. They can pass a broiler pan without pain.

And each Thanksgiving, as the sweet potato pie is passed, they say, "Here, Andy, take it, it's not too hot."

DANGER! NO PASSING ZONE!

In my younger, more na days, I smiled and grabbed the pan. Then, I dropped it on my plate and set off a domino effect of overturned water glasses and spilt salt. My family scrambled, tore the napkins from their laps, and violently tossed pinches of salt over their left shoulders.

The next year, I grabbed the pan again, and also the year after that. As I grew up, as the long division became easier and the elements rolled off my tongue, the truth about women was revealed: Grandma's got asbestos hands.

I learned to sit next to my father, and grandfathers. They cradled the pans with potholders and passed the steaming dishes with the cuffs of their sweaters pulled over their hands. For the first time in my short Thanksgiving dinner history I learned the secret to leaving the table without blisters on my fingers.

This is my holiday wisdom. It's come with age, as I was told. This year, grandmothers, mothers and aunts of the world, remember my troubles. Remember that most of your guests have yet to master the art of walking on coals. If the food is cooked, then the pan is hot.

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