By Tricia Y. Petrinovich
If you are like a high percentage of the American public, immediately following Thanksgiving dinner you are writhing in agony, bemoaning the creation of a food baby and praying for the gastrointestinal woe to stop. You have shoe-horned third helpings of mashed potatoes on top of seconds of dinner rolls and broccoli, which piggy backed onto the four hours of veggie-tray-and-cheese-ball-snacking leading up to the time at the table. You are afraid to burp, not sure what will happen. And you vow not to put one more thing into your mouth until breakfast on January 12th. Or pie at 7:00 p.m., whichever comes first.
At this point, you are dreaming of your dad’s recliner, a football game turned low and a tryptophan coma until the food passes into the large intestine. But in my house, if the turkey’s ignominious ending is any harbinger, I know I won’t get off that easily. Why? Because our family has a post-gobble tradition of games around the table, which ranks somewhere on the enjoyment scale between poking sharp objects into your eyes and being subjected to public ridicule. (Now that I think of it, sometimes the games we play require the first and result in the second.)
Of course, being the savvy reader you are, you don’t believe a word I say. And with good reason: I spew crap a lot. The truth is, I like the games. Sometimes I’m even asked to come up with them, and then you know I think they’re fun.
Maybe in your life span, you haven’t been subjected to such tomfoolery. That’s okay – there is no time like the present. So after dinner, push aside the plate of dark meat, elbow your Uncle Bill who probably fell asleep right at the table after the last bite of jello salad, and fire up the game machine with one of these:
- Alphabet Adventure: This is a great game to see if your little brother actually knows his ABC’s. (Sure, he’s 34 years old, but he still lives at home and wears Underoos.) Pick someone to start, maybe the person whose name is earliest in the alphabet. He or she then starts the story with a sentence beginning with the letter “A.” It could be anything from “Aliens abducted my stomach” to “After the Thanksgiving meal we started playing this really stupid alphabet game.” The next person then needs to continue the story with a line beginning with the letter “B.” In the first example it could be “Borgs can enter your body through a freckle.” In the second story, “Belching contests would be more fun.” You get the point. Continue it to the end, and see where it takes you!
- Merry Memory Madness: We like to play this one with an alphabet theme also. However, in this game, you only give a one word answer, and you have to remember what everyone in front of you said, or you’re “out.” The assumption is that you’re doing your Black Friday Christmas shopping, so pick someone to start. They would say, “I went shopping and bought an attache.” The next person says, “I went shopping and bought an attache and a Bentley.” The third says, “I bought an attache, a Bentley and a chaise.” If you get through the alphabet with more than one person still in the game, keep going! Eventually you will be down to one person with a mind like a steel trap who might, coincidentally, be the biggest grudge holder in the group – like your Great Aunt Agatha who remembers that her neighbor’s husband’s hair dresser (Marge Ogilvy) didn’t send her a Christmas card in 1973.
- Ornament-Off: If you’re a family of super models, do a walk off. But if you’re barely passable in the looks department, stick with this one. (It’s the one we play in my house.) Give everyone an inexpensive ornament and either colored markers or paint, depending on how much you’re looking for an excuse to replace your flooring. Everyone gets one shot to decorate as if they are going for a design show on HGTV. Someone – usually the host of the holiday – sits out and acts as an impartial judge (unless you can corner him in the laundry room and bribe him with your piece of mom’s chocolate pie). Ideally, he won’t be watching to know whose finished product is whose. Prizes go to the best and worst. Loser probably has to do the dishes. And if you want, you can date and exchange ornaments to hang on your tree.
I know what you’re thinking. Wouldn’t the obvious activity be to go around the table and say what you are thankful for? Probably. But in our family, the laughter, groans and competitive juices are thanks enough for the gift of being together. Besides, that would be too predictable. My cousin, Rich, would just say that he’s most thankful for the moment when the games are over. And you can bet mine would have something to do with that chocolate pie.