Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, one of the many holidays that we gather with friends and family, eat and be merry. My family traditionally gets together at one relatives house or another, and we each bring a dish to pass. The hosts provide the bird and venue, and usually much wine (we are Italian, after all). I love getting together with my family, because I adore them, and because they are the perfect exercise for my creative writing.
For a couple of hours, I have the opportunity to observe people of various ages, interact naturally, in all their loud, obnoxious lovingness. The smells of the food cooking, sounds of children playing (or arguing), and the festive fall decorations, are material for my imaginative prose. Every bit of the evening is a smorgasbord of possible character traits, scene descriptions, and fodder for “Show, Don’t Tell.”
My father has a wonderful Italian accent and hand gestures, which are endearing and usually the butt of many jokes (both get more pronounced as the night goes on). I have seen pictures of the handsome young man my mother married, and I can still see a small part of that man now. His once thick, black hair has now faded to fine, silver locks that he smooths back over his head, and his weathered skin, from working outdoors, wrinkles when he smiles.
My brother-in-law can dominate most conversations, and even though I have a hard time getting a word in edgewise, I can marvel over his dominant jaw and bouncing brow, as he deliberates on current affairs in his own litigious way. Since he is hosting dinner this year, he will sit at the head of the table, like a king on his throne, gesturing with one arm, whilst the other reposes on the armrest. He will inevitably jibe at himself for not needing dessert, and pat his pudgy belly while he accepts a large piece of pumpkin pie.
One of my favorite people to watch is my sister. She is three years my senior, but as we grow older, we become more alike. Besides the fact that we look similar, our mannerisms are almost identical. I find it fascinating to watch her throw her arms in the air, like a referee signaling a touchdown, as she glares at one of her sons for doing something inept, like knocking their soda off the table, because that was where they rested their feet. I can empathize with her “where did I go wrong in raising you” feeling. This is usually followed by the “where did I leave my wine glass” pose, because it is the simple and fluid change of arm position, lower and at her sides. Watching her is like looking into a mirror.
With turkey, lasagna, my mother-in-law’s jovial laugh, the clinking of wineglasses, and grand comradery, it is an enjoyable and educational evening. The Thanksgiving meal and memories will keep me full of descriptions, speech patterns, and calories for a long while (or at least until Christmas, when we do it all over again). I give thanks for my family and for them being such a great inspiration in my life and work.