“I jus go nuts at Christmas” is a vintage holiday tune by Yogi Yorgesson that in a thick Scandinavian accent tells the tale of a family celebration gone awry. It is a favorite in our household because half of my family comes from Scandinavia and gravitates towards self-deprecating humor and the other half comes from Germany and, strangely enough, also enjoys Scandinavian depreciating humor.
While we are not quite to the Holidays yet, Thanksgiving is upon us. Thanksgiving is a lot like the Holidays, absent the cards, carols, trees, wreaths, decorations, lights, wrapped presents, and good cheer. Basically what you get with Thanksgiving is a combination of lots of family and lots of food.
In addition to being fun, family gatherings are also frequently “interesting”. After all these are the people who have known you since you arrived on the scene or at least all of their lives. They have seen you at your best, worst and everything in between. And if they are like my sister they catalogue each of these moments away in the recesses of their memory for retrieval at the optimal time (optimal meaning most embarrassing).
I think most families have at least one keeper of the family lore. Each time my wife Pam’s family gets together at her grandparent’s place in upstate New York, her Uncle Tucker inevitably tells the story of when she was learning to drive his truck (at 9 years of age… don’t tell anyone) and almost took out one of his favorite trees while backing up. After decades of telling this story and pointing out the resulting scar on the tree, the tree mercifully fell over during a hurricane that hit the east coast this past summer. Pam’s brother, who was there at the time, sent her a picture with the comment from her uncle that her bad driving finally did the tree in. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Pam’s uncle took a chainsaw and cut out the section of the tree with the scar on it and preserved it in polyurethane so he could continue to tell that story in the decades to come.
At this time of year my sister likes to tell a Thanksgiving story about a banana cream pie from about a quarter century ago that I call “Criminy”. For those of you who not familiar with the word “Criminy”, it is according to Webster’s “an expression used as a mild oath to express surprise”.
Now I think Webster got the definition wrong as there is nothing mild about the word’s use on the rare occasions when my Mom has seen fit to use it.
Basically what happened is this. On the day after Thanksgiving my Mom and sister went to join thousands of other bargain hunters at West Towne Mall. At some point during their travels they remarked how nice it would be to have a piece of leftover banana cream pie upon their return home.
However, while they were shopping I was working up an appetite playing basketball at the high school and came home to an empty house and a full refrigerator. There is nothing in the world I like better than my grandmother’s homemade banana cream pie so I decided to have a piece before working through the leftovers. After quickly finishing the first piece I thought to myself that the only thing better than one piece of banana cream pie is 2 pieces and before long I just took the whole tin with me to cut down on return trips to the fridge.
Upon returning home my sister and my mother made a bee line to the refrigerator to get themselves a piece of banana cream pie only to discover, no pie! My sister was hopping mad and immediately deduced who had dispatched the pie. When I ran into her later that afternoon, she told me that I was in big trouble with Mom. I said something like, “It was just a pie, and I was hungry,” to which my sister said. “Oh yeah? Well Mom said ‘Criminy.’” Gulp. I suddenly realized that if my Mom said “Criminy” my immediate future was indeed looking bleak.
So I said to myself, “Think, think, what can you do to make this right?” and I headed out the door in search of redemption, which I thought I found at Baskin Robbins (which was then located near the MacDonalds off of Allen Blvd). I used a big portion of my meager teen-age funds to purchase a Banana Split Ice Cream Pie and took it home and gave it to my Mom with an apology. She looked surprised and said, “What’s this for?” and I confessed to having eaten the banana cream pie. She then said, “That’s no big deal. Why do you think I would be mad about that?” My sister then came in the room and flashed me a Chesire Cat sized grin… to which I silently mouthed the word, “Criminy”. Happy Thanksgiving Everyone I hope you all make a memory or two and enjoy your equivalent of banana cream pie!