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Thanksgiving around our house is an exercise in controlled chaos. We're never really sure exactly how many people might show up.

For the past several years, it's been a group event with some very good friends, children and all. Everyone brings something to the table and we end up with a feast that has everyone groaning for days.

My job is the turkey and stuffing. This year, we're having two turkeys so I know there will be plenty of leftovers – the best part of the holiday. Stuffing is an adventure because I always make the same stuffing every year. I make it because I like it. It's a simple sausage stuffing but everyone has their own traditions. Louise and her sons like the stuffing she has always made. Once she creates the stuffing, she rolls it into balls and wraps them in bacon. Baked in the oven, the boys then devour them like hungry wolves. Me? I won't eat them. They're just not my stuffing. I'm a traditionalist and I still think my stuffing is the best. Even if I'm the only one that thinks that, I'm good, thank you.

We have a good friend, Dale, who is a marine biologist who specializes in oysters. Dale is a very good person to know around Thanksgiving. Actually, he's a good guy to know all year round but, at Thanksgiving, he brings oysters! Typically, he brings several hundred and we all stand around the island in the kitchen while they're being shucked. I try to eat them as fast as they can be opened and I usually do a pretty good job of it. The girls don't generally like raw oysters (what's wrong with them?) so we fire up the grill and throw the oysters on with a little butter, garlic and cheese. The good news is that I prefer my oysters raw so I don't partake of the grilled oysters. That's good because it gives other people a chance to have some.

After the oyster orgy, all hell breaks loose while everyone tries to get their food ready at the same time so we can all sit down and eat. You'd think we just opened a soup kitchen for the homeless with the amount of food and the piles on everyone's plate. There's not a lot of talking while we're eating because, well, we're eating.

Once dinner is done, it's time for the Annual Thanksgiving Volleyball Tournament. Usually, it's the old people against the kids. For several years, we simply destroyed them. The problem is, they're growing up and at least one of them is about 6' 5” and played volleyball in school. The last few years, we've pretty much been tied but I suspect that, this year, the old people are about to get their asses kicked.

When everyone's done with volleyball, we head in for dessert and you can have your choice of delectable delights. Football on the tv and people all over the house. The only thing I ask is that my seat on the couch is reserved for my use only. The kids seem to ignore this rule and, while I know it's silly, I get really bent out of shape when someone's sitting in my seat. Last year, Louise made a sign and taped it to my seat. It said “Cliff's Seat. Do not sit here.” The sign was ignored, so I gave up and just made another cocktail.

After dinner, everyone gathers in the dining room to play games. Everyone but me, that is. I don't play games. Why not? Because I'm a very, very bad loser. I would prefer not to shame myself in front of everyone by grabbing the game board and flinging it across the room if I get behind. We all used to play tennis together but that stopped when I started throwing my racket at people when I was losing. Yes, I'm a very, very bad sport. As Vince Lombardi once said “show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser”. Don't lecture me, I know it's not right but, if you're in a foxhole with people shooting at you, I'm the guy you want next to you. OK, I know, no one's shooting at anyone but I still have that ugly compulsion to win. That's why I don't play games. It's just the way it is and I'm grown up enough to recognize my bad qualities. Well, at least some of them. Don't worry, people have no problem pointing out my other ones.

Clean up time and the traditional splitting of the food. Who gets to take what home. All I care about is enough turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce to make my after Thanksgiving sandwich. Man, I can't wait.

The next day, I gather the carcass, the left over fixings and I make turkey soup. Everyone in the pot with a little seasoning and then blend it all together. Yes, I love my soup.

Anyway, that's what Thanksgiving is like at our house. I hope your Thanksgiving is as much fun as ours and that you have traditions that give the holiday real meaning. Just remember what it's all about and don't play games with me.


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