1. 10:00 AM on Thanksgiving Day
"What time is Gregory coming over?" my mother asked as she ran between the turkey on the stove and the lasagna on the kitchen counter.
"He's not," I said, grabbing a meatball from off the top of the lasagna and popping it into my mouth. "I'm just meeting him for dinner with his family at six."
"Well, we're eating around noon, so you'll have plenty of time to see us before you go over to his house."
She blinked back, her lips pursed. "You've been dating for two years," she said. "I've only seen him once or twice. He's never met your grandparents or your cousins. It's about time he meets the whole family, don't you think?"
"Maybe next year," I said, and then left her to do her cooking alone.
2. 12:00 PM on Thanksgiving Day
My little cousins ran around on our patio, their coats tied around their waists. My older cousins played horseshoes on the other side of the yard, beers cradled in their hands.
Most of my aunts and uncles were tucked inside the house, watching a football game and chatting about work.
I planned on helping my mother finish her work in the kitchen, an apology for having an attitude earlier in the day, but a knock on the door stopped me in my tracks. My family members never knocked. That's why I walked over to the door, opened it, and saw my boyfriend standing with a smile.
"Hey, baby," he said, pressing his lips against mine. He had a box of store bought cookies in his hands
"What are you doing here? I told you we weren't doing anything for Thanksgiving."
"I know. But it looks like that was a lie." He pushed past me, into the hallway that led to the rest of the house. "Are you embarrassed of me or something?"
"Your mom called me a few hours ago. She told me to swing by. But you told me your family never gets together for the holidays anymore. So I'm guessing you didn't want me here, because you're embarrassed of me."
"What?" I repeated. "No."
"Then why don't I ever see your family?"
Half of my relatives were alcoholics. My grandparents were dirty perverts. We weren't the Brady Bunch type. We were the complete opposite of Gregory's wholesome family who ate dinner at the table and never cursed in front of each other.
"They're not worth meeting," I said, wishing I could push him right back out the door. "I didn't want to bother you with them."
"It's not a bother. I love you. I want to meet the other people who love you. I've told you this."
That's when my grandfather came over and slapped him on the back. "So are you the guy my little angel has been sleeping with? I hope you've been using protection."
"Grandpa. Please," I said, my hands already shaking with frustration.
"What?" he asked in the innocent way only grandparents could get away with. "You're a quiet one. The quiet ones are always kinky in the bedroom. But if you're having a lot of sex, you need a lot of condoms."
My cheeks reddened. My mouth went dry. So incredibly, ridiculously embarrassing.
I ran into the other room, leaving Gregory on his own, so I could speak to my mother alone. "What's wrong with you?" I asked when I found her.
She didn't even have to ask me what I meant. She just said, "You want to marry Gregory, don't you?"
"Yeah, which is why I didn't want him here. It's going to scare him away."
"If he loves you, he'll be able to handle it." She wiped her hands on her apron. "And God, Chelsea, are we really that bad? We may be embarrassing, but we're happy, and that's more than most families can say. Be a little thankful."
We went back and fourth, reiterating the same points in a dozen different ways, until Gregory entered the room with a smile.
"Oh man. Your grandfather had me talking for a while. He's really--"
"I know," I said. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have left you with him."
"What? No. He's awesome." He grabbed my hand and squeezed. "I wish my grandparents would joke around like that. It's hysterical."
There was a long pause. "Wait, really?" I asked.
"Yeah, my relatives are a bunch of stiffs. I love them, but this is a breath of fresh air."
I just stared at him. I'd always thought so highly of his family. Always wished my family were more like his. I never thought he'd be jealous of mine.
"Sorry, I didn't say hello," he said to my mother before resting his cookies on the counter and giving her a hug.
"I'm sorry, too," I said, but it wasn't loud enough for anyone to hear.
The rest of the afternoon, I watched my boyfriend play soccer with my little cousins, help my drunk cousins find water to sober them up, and joke around with my filthy old grandfather.
And that's when I finally learned to love my family for who they were.
** I hope you enjoyed this short little story! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! **