The Kids Table at Thanksgiving

We ONCE SPENT an entire Thanksgiving Day convincing our cousin Derk to say “sh!t” during grace at the meal.

Xmas 1977, sisters KERRY, LORI & KANDY

What could be more deplorable than cussing during grace? Nothing, so we set about the task. Derk was five years younger than us, prone to cussing anyway and so the perfect front man.

We can remember this as possibly the worst thing we ever did growing up. Yes, we were that good. We would never dream of swearing during grace. Our parents would never believe we were capable of even suggesting it. Therefore, it was fail proof.

Derk would garner our undying admiration, we would derive a vicarious thrill, he would be grounded until eternity, we would maintain our angelic status.

There sat Great Grandma Rae saying grace, her little head barely clearing the height of the table, while her beloved great-grandchildren sat at the Kids’ Table in the back room, scheming the unimaginable.

It was go time. “Do it!” we urged Derk in hushed whispers. And just when she was about to say “Amen,” he let loose the four-letter word.

We all held our breath, stock still, terrified. We looked at the adults and waited. What would happen? Who would be kilt first?

No one, it turned out. We were flat-out ignored. We were not given the floor during grace nor during dinner. As we looked at each other, an epiphany arrived hot in our hands: We were second-string to the turkey.

The women had toiled all day to make us a magnificent meal and, for now, we could just shut up and eat it.

Not to be deterred, we shifted gears to Operation Mashed Potatoes. With a little coaching, Derk could easily launch a well-packed spoonful from here to somewhere between the cranberry sauce and Uncle Dick’s ashtray.

“Do it!” we urged Derk in hushed whispers. (Side note: This was long before the days of internet and other forms of misbehaving. We were in the heart of the U.P. We had to, by default, come up with our own fun.)

We figured angle and distance, timing and stance. The plan was to Launch and Not Look. We would act as surprised as the adults when the potatoes arrived over Aunt Barb’s shoulder.

Go time! Derk launched the missile with both gusto and nonchalance. We watched it sail, clearing our heads before we saw it land, splat, on the carpet. We were no mathematicians, but this was bad. It hadn’t even left the room, let alone traversed the three short steps up into the dining room.

Which is when the giggles started. We were hysterical with relief, screaming with laughter. Aunt Linda called out a “Watch it, yous!” without looking up. (Sidenote: “Yous” is part of the Yooper vernacular. Used to sign off all birthday cards, i.e. “Love yous.”)

Another epiphany arrived: We had somehow procured an invisibility shield around the Kids’ Table. A new freedom rained down upon us. What else could we get away with?

Naturally, Operation Mashed Potatoes turned into an all-out food fight among the cousins. Peas and kernel corn proved to be real flyers, while gravy did the heavy lifting of ruining blouses. Due to Grandma’s penchant for side dishes, we had no shortage of things to experiment with.

We soon realized we could all commence swearing, at will, because the turkey was that good that year.

We were, without exaggeration, having a ball.

But it couldn’t last forever. When we finally launched Jell-O onto the ceiling, we knew we were in for it. Eventually the shield would be pierced, and, with our luck, it would be our father who would do the piercing. Even with little old gray-haired ladies as witnesses, he never failed to discipline and heavily.

Our goodness came flooding back. We mastered a rebound plan: Send Derk to the kitchen to get a wet dishrag. His only instructions: Do not make eye contact.

Sure enough, he blew it. The adults wanted to know what the rag was for. He stood there mute, the adults expectant, the cousins on tenterhooks.

But then Grandma, as she was prone to do, saved the day: “Yous kids cleaning up the dishes?” she asked, not waiting for a reply. “What good kids!”

What could we say to that except… Amen!

And with that, we wish yous Happy Holidays this year!

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