Let us pray

Matilda, don’t lay your head back or you’ll choke to death,” Pennie says, trying to wrangle this kid’s squirmy body into an upright eating position in her lap.

They give these lame little kids names they’ll never live up to like Matilda and Lincoln and Gunner, but they’re really Johns, Georges and Sues, at best. Doomed.

Matilda is drooling, holding a yellow Starburst in her mouth, tempting fate. Asking for it to lodge in her little 2-year-old baby throat. I wonder which of us would do the Heimlich. Dad is cutting the turkey in the kitchen. Unk is literally 37x her size and would accidentally crush her if he tried. I’m practically her size and apparently the only one monitoring her for signs of life, so I assume it will be my responsibility. I run through the procedure in my mind, just in case.

These children are reckless. Wreckfull. Everything in this house is a hazard. Including them.

The Macy’s parade is playing on a tiny TV beside the Christmas tree. Matt Lauer signing off. Total DILF.

Now they’re bargaining with the one that should be named Carl to shut the front door.

“Come eat your hot dog.” “Watch the dog show.” This is not parenting. I blame stratification. I hide myself in a newspaper column calling for a new name for Black Friday. It’s syndicated from the Washington Post. Wtf is happening in the world? Wtf, Washington? You’re better than this.

“… like a bunch of politicians!” My dad’s uncle Fletcher says as he comes through the front door. He’s already started his hate speech and he’s not even in the door yet. He’s got to be 90 years old. Minutes later, he’s leading us in pre-dinner prayer in the living room.

“Our dear heavenly father,” he says competing with the dog show on tv. He’s leaning precariously on his cane, head bowed, as it would be. Paisley suspenders hold up his khaki pants in animated suspension closer to his sternum than his belly button.

“Thank you for another Thanksgiving… (now the terrier group…) food and the hands that prepared it… (this breed, very prolific…) and most of all your precious son, Jayshush.” This went on through two sets of commercial breaks. So long that saliva was gathering in his mouth giving him a delightful southern lisp. He gave a little extra drama every time he said “Jayshush.” It was 22 times.

Shweet Jayshush.

He’s one of the first to claim a seat at the table. The rest of us dawdle, not wanting to be stuck with him for an entire meal. Historically, he eats slow and tries to incite a riot with talk of politics, which is really just him telling us how only white men know shit about shit… unless they’re democrats.

“A meal ain’t a meal without an onion. You got any onions?” His plate runneth over.

“Fannie, Fletcher wants an onion,” my sweet Granny says to her sweet sister. “I’m sure she has an onion in there.”

A fucking onion.

He asks me if I still live in Nashville. The answer is yes, but I mistakenly elaborate and say “Yes, it’s getting crowded. Lots of growth.”

He pounced on it. Rookie f-ing mistake, Leslie.

“They’re letting too many strangers into the country. Don’t you think so?” Fletcher says, now with a gravy lisp. I want to say they’re not strangers, just friends we haven’t met yet, just to see if the jagged vein on his temple will throb or strike at me like a hissing cobra. But instead I say, “Oh I don’t know,” and crush to death the broccoli in my mouth.

“Well they all want to hurt us, these strangers,” he said. “You may not think so but just wait and see.”

I make a sound that’s hard to read, like I’m intrigued but also done. Wait and see? Grim. And also lazy.

I want to say “This Thanksgiving I am thankful for diversity. Melting pot. Syrian refugees. And the Obamacare that made it all possible. ‘merica.”

But I think the side of his head would blow out and ruin my dad’s shirt, and meal, and day. So I let his xenophobia wash over me the same way his lovely Jayshush speech did 5 minutes earlier.

I slide a knife slowly toward him across the plastic table cloth.

“For your onion.”