Tables & Turkey

November Men's Room column

“Before we eat,” I’ll say, “let’s give thanks for the many blessings on the table.”

“Tables,” my nephew in Oregon will say. “I see three or four tables.”

“Five,” my niece will say from her home near Asheville. “We’ve got two here – a big one for the grownups and a card table for the kids.”

“Six,” her sharp-eyed daughter will say. “I see a table with a lamp on it.”

“What time does the game start?” my younger brother in Florida will say.

“Lamp tables don’t count,” the little girl’s older brother will say.

“I can’t see any tables without my glasses,” the smallest one will say. He’s seven. He thinks glasses make him look cool, so he claims he has bad eyesight. The optometrist gave him clear lenses.

“Let’s keep moving,” my mother will say from her home in Sampson County. “This turkey will get cold.”

“Turkeys,” my nephew will say. “I see three or four turkeys here.”

“Five,” my niece will say.

“Four-and-a-half,” her husband will say. “We started eating already.”

“Tables, turkeys – so many blessings,” I will say. “Bowls of green beans. Platters of dressing. Multiple mountains of potato salad. Lo, these many pies – apple and pumpkin and whatever that green thing is.”

“Key lime pistachio,” my niece will say. “I’m breaking with tradition this year.”

It will be Thanksgiving Day, and once again I’ll be my family’s designated emcee, doing my best imitation of what I imagine a pilgrim preacher might have sounded like. My job is to pull everybody together for a moment of calm reflection before the forks fly. But, things are different this year. Because of the pandemic, Thanksgiving, like everything else, will move online. This year, we’re all breaking with tradition.

“Key lime pistachio?” my brother-in-law will say from east Tennessee. “That’s a diabetic’s worst nightmare.” He’s diabetic. “Aw, son, my blood sugar would shoot up like a rocket. But, hey, it’s Thanksgiving.”

“And, on this most special of holidays,” I’ll continue, “let’s offer our thanks.”

“It’s a good thing that pie is across the state line,” my sister will tell my brother-in-law. She’ll be sitting next to him, separated by a box of Splenda and a glucose monitor. “If you got hold of it, you’d end up in the emergency room.”

“I think the Lions are playing,” my younger brother will say. “They play every Thanksgiving.”

“We don’t add sugar to anything in Oregon,” my nephew will say. “Everything’s organic out here. Nature sweetens it.”

“In my kitchen,” my mother will say, “Dixie Crystals sweetens it.”

“Let’s express our thanks for all that has been given to us by nature and the livestock industry,” I will say.

“Is that cranberry sauce from a can?” my sister will say.

“Mine’s the real deal,” my mother will say.

“Mine’s a cranberry salad,” my niece will say. “I added bananas and marshmallows.”

“That’s a diabetic’s worst nightmare,” my brother-in-law will say.

“I’ll have nightmares if the Lions beat the Packers,” my younger brother will say.

At some point, we’ll get around to our annual moment of silence. We’ll count our blessings and dig into our first plate, then seconds, all of us safely if strangely at a distance, not together but together, as close as ever, thankfully.

Tim Bass is coordinator of UNCW’s bachelor of fine arts program in creative writing.

To view more of illustrator Mark Weber’s work, go to

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Categories: Culture