Our parents pile us in the DeSoto and we go “home” for Thanksgiving. (“Home” is Nebraska; “the house” is where we live.) Dad sings Oh Mister Moon, Shine on Harvest Moon and all the other songs he knows with the moon in them, and Shenandoah and I Told a Lie to my Heart and all kinda Hank Williams as he drives; Mom is silent; us kids in the back seat elbow and squabble, eventually drift off to sleep—theydo, not me; I have to sing along—as we travel the straight, townless road lit only by Mister Moon and our puny headlights.

          There is one place out where the two States meet up, where you have to go one way or t’other: If Dad is driving, we go straight over the railroad tracks and turn right ‘til



looms up out of the dark and the road narrows and we’re almost there; on the very rare times when Mom is driving by herself, she gets lost where the road branches and stops the car and cries—sometimes for a long time—before she puts the car back in gear and drives on. It is never good to let her know you are awake out there.

          Thanksgiving Dinner all the aunts and uncles and cousins arrive with food and food and food and all of it homegrown and straight off the farm. There are big people tables in the living room and kids’ tables in the kitchen and babies being passed around arm to arm and more people coming in the back door bringing cakes and jello salads in all shades of the rainbow. There is a toast with Mogen David wine at one point; everybody has a sip, even little kids.

          After dinner the menfolk all go down to the basement to play poker and drink whiskey and smoke. That’s where I head. Who wants to be upstairs listening to a bunch of gossip about who got bit by the trouser worm—a phrase used when little pitchers with big ears are around? The rest of the kids are bundled and mufflered and sent outside regardless of weather, but who wants to run around with a bunch of wild cousins when you can sit on your Dad’s knee and lay down his next card, surrounded by men’s voices and smoke and delicious cussing? Who wants a second piece of pie when you can get a forbidden tase of Old Grandad?

          Not me.


August 29, 2021, 9:16:09 PM

Nebraska Stories