'Oh what a feeling'

23:12, Jan 07 2014

This is what I am most thankful for tonight:

Five hours ago, my two cousins and I, who are rarely in the same country during the holidays, were dancing around my aunt's kitchen in our boots to 70s music and washing up dishes from Thanksgiving dinner.

Not quite sure how the dance party started.

Because about ten minutes before, we were, like millions of other Americans, in a food coma from over-partaking in two kinds of green beans, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, creamed corn, turkey and my late Grandma Emily's jell-o ''sin salad'' - a 1950s-esque comfort food  none of us would dream of missing out on (and it's a full year until that gets passed around the table again so, you know, you have to take at least two extra helpings to get you through to 2014).

There are three of us cousins home in California this year - Victoria, Christine and myself.  

And that is unusual. In the past 10 years we have, collectively, lived in New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Copenhagen, Madrid, Santiago, and Invercargill (notice how I snuck ol' Invers in with the big guns).


My brother, Sean - the baby of the group - was on speaker phone from Auckland as we all ate pumpkin pie and poured coffee and the last of the wine.

After the phone was passed around (none of us really understand how speaker phones work - we'd rather yell into the phone while it's in our hands) Sean did his annual recitation of ''Daddy's Football Game'' which is - 20 years after it started as a joke -  as much a part of the celebration now, and as comforting, as the pilgrims' prayer.

We cousins took our time getting to the kitchen after the meal, and instead let our moms do the clearing. But at some point we knew their shift was up, and it was our turn.

Maybe I am biased, but I think my cousins - the closest thing I have to sisters - are fascinating.

Christine is a social worker who goes between California and Spain with her husband (and honorary cousin, of course) Antonio, and spent a month this last summer working in the Dominican Republic.

Victoria is an associate professor of architecture who divides her teaching and writing time between Lubbock, Texas and Valparaiso, Chile.

I know our parents are proud of us. I believe them when they say it.

But as the oldest cousin - which naturally designates me as team captain at ''the children's table'' at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter - I have to chime in and say I'm proud of us too. Each of us has grown up to march to our own drumbeat.

I look back on our years of building tree forts, reading stacks of books together, and choreographing performances to the Flashdance theme on roller skates (I'm still conditioned to point to the sky every time I hear ''What A Feeling'') and I'm thankful for the space we had to be a little bit nutty.  I think early schooling in embracing our weirdness gave us the guts to take flying leaps as adults.

Tonight the three of us took up our tea towels and scrubbing brushes and got to work.

The stories started at the Thanksgiving table continued at the sink. We talked about art. We talked about literature. We talked about travel. We talked about wine.

Look at us, I thought, cleaning the gravy dish. This is the children's table all grown up.

Then someone turned on the music.

There was suddenly a lot of towel snapping, lip synching with serving spoons, squeezing of dishwashing liquid while singing about ''remembering September''  as our finest silverware was hand-washed, and the green bean casserole dish was scrubbed.

Then it wasn't just the cousies. My aunt, who dances Flamenco, was in amongst us; my parents were dancing in the living room. The song ended. We stopped. Then someone played it again and we all went back to dancing.

I wonder if you appreciate these moments more when they are fleeting. If we all lived in one place together, all the time, would dancing in a kitchen like 9-year-olds be so special?

Not sure.

But it was marvellous. And as team captain for the cousins I'm going to speak for all of us and say this is so worth coming home for.  

Oh what a feeling (hand to the sky)... I am thankful for this crew of nutters.

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