My childhood Thanksgivings began enjoyably and always ended horribly.
I stood close as my grandmother cracked two eggs into a bowl of cake batter.
"Can I try?" I asked.
Using a hand held can opener, she opened a can of Carnation milk and poured it into the batter.
She stirred it. When her arm was weary she let me stir.
"Make sure you beat all the lumps out."
I beat the batter until my arm ached.
After she spread the batter into the baking pan she let me lick the bowl.
When the cakes were in the oven she said, "Go sit down and don’t jump around or you’ll make the cake fall."
She first baked her cakes and sweet potatoes pies.
Then she cooked collard greens, baked macaroni-and-cheese, chitlins, rice, gravy, and corn bread.
After that, she roasted the turkey.
My aunts, my mother, and cousins came over. My uncles were always incarcerated.
We didn’t eat together like a family. Instead, my grandmother sat at the kitchen table with my sisters and younger cousins. My aunts sat in the living room. And I ate in my room.
After we ate, my grandmother talked to herself about how no one ever helped her.
She said, "No one helped buy food but they come in here and eat everything up."
Although she cooked enough for everyone.
The more she talked to herself the angrier she was.
She started with my mother, raging at her.
My mother yelled back, "Fuck you, bitch."
Soon, my grandmother was beating my mother with a broom stick and screaming, "Get the fuck out my house before I call the cops."
My mother stormed out.
As soon as my mother left, my grandmother started in on Aunt Vanessa.
"You’re a junkie too, you yellow bitch." Aunt Vanessa is light-skinned.
When Auntie Vanessa left, my grandmother started in on Auntie Dy.
Auntie Dy wasn’t a junkie so my grandmother called her other names like, "black bitch."
Eventually everyone left but us grandchildren.
My grandmother kept talking to herself about how she had to take care of her damn kids. "God damn junkies."
Then she began to yell at us, "I shouldn’t have to take care of you motherfuckers. I should be able to come and go as I please. Talia, get in here and do these damn dishes. You’re gonna be just like your mother."
Same thing. Every Thanksgiving.
My grandmother died this year.
I would give anything to have another one of these Thanksgivings with her.