As I was solving the gravy mystery -- the secret flavor is carrot -- David's two nieces sang and made other noises across from us. As a rule, I do not like children. They're loud, they fidget a lot, they don't practice perfect hygiene, and they require insane levels of attention. David's nieces are good girls, perfectly tolerable in doses, yet I still wondered if it was a bad idea to suggest muzzles for Christmas. (By the way, for the many of you who did not get the joke in my piano story, I was talking about a baby grand piano, not a child. Therefore, cards of congratulation -- though appreciated -- are not necessary.)
The highlight of our holiday meal occurred when, in a brief moment of insanity, David's mother rolled a small, round potato across the table to one of the children in response to its request to "Pass the potatoes, please." Everyone sat frozen in stunned disbelief at the breach of etiquette demonstrated by the family's matriarch of manners. Later, in hushed whispers, the girls (whose world had clearly been shaken by the bizarre "potato incident") admitted they no longer knew what to expect from Mama. Potato rolling goes hand in hand with bun tossing at my mother's table.
The turkey was moist (hooray!), the stuffing contained mushrooms (yuck), the dinner was tasty enough, and it offered a break from all things sausage, sour cream, egg, and paprika, the staples of a Hungarian home. But while looking at the fancy decorations, minding my table manners, and listening to conversations on topics that did not interest me, I missed my family. A lot. And I knew they missed me just as much. I was suddenly grateful that despite our differences, despite the fact that I have always been the proverbial black sheep, my family makes me feel like I belong. For that, I am thankful.