Thanksgiving Day. A time to relax and reconnect with family.
Ah, family. You love to see them come, and you’ll never admit how much you love to see them go.
You prepare for Thanksgiving dinner as meticulously as you prepare for trial. Consider the salad your opening statement; that is the time to determine what you will — and won’t — admit as the family convenes for this year’s review.
Dad has carved the turkey and the bird is making its way around the table. Your first objection: Your nephew Bobby is taking way too much white meat. You are overruled by his mother, your older sister Nancy, who tells you to shut it and how dare you deny protein to a growing boy (Bobby turned 21 in July.)
You note your objection and turn to the stuffing. Nancy always adds too much sage, fully cognizant that your mutual younger sister Annabelle is allergic to the shrub. You and Annabelle exchange meaningful looks from across the table. You were enjoined from sitting next to each other after The Great Spill of 1985: Your roughhousing left cranberry sauce all over Great Aunt Mildred’s antique tablecloth. Your mother’s disapproval knew no statute of limitations. But your shared long gaze with Annabelle declares the stuffing inadmissible and your nephew insufferable.
The green beans are undercooked and chewy. The almonds on top are burnt. Your younger brother Grover is the guilty party, and he knows it. You wish there was a bailiff to take the Grover Beans (You and Annabelle are so used to your brother’s annual crime against the side dish that you have a name for them) into custody and escort them to a holding cell, such as the kitchen trash can.
At least you have Grandma Alice’s sweet potatoes to turn to – though you notice the marshmallows on top mysteriously have gone missing (Thanks, Bobby).
After three trips to the living-room bar, Nancy’s husband Theo clearly has carried his bourbon of proof. He makes a political comment. Mom, remembering the argument that led to The Fistfight of 2016, makes a motion to pass around Cousin Mary’s vegan macaroni, which has been sitting untouched on the table next to Bobby.
Mistrial avoided, Mom takes control of the conversation, rapping her serving spoon on the bench, um, table.
Dad serves as stenographer, taking mental notes for the long conversations he knows will follow this … joyous gathering.
Mom does direct examination of Annabelle: “How is that new boyfriend of yours? Couldn’t he make it today? When can I expect a wedding?”
In turn, Nancy cross-examines Grover: “Your band isn’t getting any good gigs these days, is it? You’re still just playing weddings, right?”
Grover retaliates by taking on Bobby: “So when are you going back to school? Wasn’t a gap year only supposed to last 12 months?”
The conversation heats up as the food grows colder.
You know your turn is coming. Gee, which will it be this year? The usual dumb lawyer jokes or yet another request for family pro bono work?
So you decide it’s time to make a motion for dessert.
Time for everyone to rest their case. The jury is unanimous: Mom’s pumpkin pie and coffee are delightful. You all have forgotten the shared tension at dinner and are feeling light knowing this trial soon will be over. At this point, it doesn’t matter who won. You all have pie.
You volunteer to do the dishes because it will give you a sidebar alone with Mom and Annabelle.
The others cheer for football teams they don’t care about, except Theo, who has passed out.
You hug everyone goodbye and grab your keys, eager to escape.
Oh, wait, didn’t you agree to host next year?
— Maura Mazurowski and Paul Fletcher