Thursday, January 20, 2011


Thanksgiving is two days away. There is a roaring fire that spurts and flitters with life, providing a focal point of raw elemental force. A dog walks from person to person, collecting affection from each hand until they get tired of giving.

I try to keep most of my attention on the fire, remembering that there is life outside this room, but there is a struggle. The human and the raw pull at me, grabbing each arm. The big TV screen is on and we are covered in blue light, a type of light that can even trump fire.

My sister and mother are sitting on the carpet, just a few feet from the TV. “I’ve been saving this so you can see it mom.” Dorit points the remote at the TV, quickly changing channels and navigating her menu of saved shows. My sister and mother have shared a bond over the same TV shows for almost a decade now. They like the same sentimental love stories, the same big-budget romantic comedies and Oprah. “It’s Oprah’s favorite things,” my sister says with a small smile and turns to my mother.

“Ok!” my mom replies enthusiastically.

The next five minutes are filled with ecstatic jumping, near fainting, and screams of delight as Oprah fans hug each other and cry with each free gift that is carried out from backstage.

“I can’t believe I am watching this,” my dad says in an irritated tone from the couch. No one responds, but my mother gives him a dirty look before she turns back to the television. Ten minutes pass by, Oprah gives away $25 gift cards to McDonald’s for everyone in the audience, my sister’s small apartment fills with the screams of middle aged women as Oprah describes items from McDonald’s new menu. The audience is beyond enthusiastic, they grab each other, jumping wildly on their seats, the lone man in the audience is holding his head in his hands, tears streaking his face. My sister and mom are smiling, sharing in the raw emotion that pours in through the TV.

I turn to my dad, there is a look of disgust and mild amusement on his face, as though the spectacle is more emotion than he has ever felt, as though each one of them is insane for expressing it so blatantly. He shakes his head, his eyes narrow, “this is just an advertisement. You think she bought all these things? It’s just an ad.”

“I know,” agrees Maxwell, my sister’s boyfriend, whose disgust rivals that of my father’s. “Dorit already made me watch this once.”

“I can’t believe I am watching this,” my dad announces again. He grabs the newspaper that had lay abandoned on his lap and begins shifting through its pages once again, the newsprint blocking his line of sight from the TV.

“Fine, I’ll change it Yossi,” Dorit says to my dad with anger. She changes the channel, flipping it to Cougar Town. I turn to the fire and rub the soft fur on the dog's face. “Who’s this idiot?” my mom says, referring to a blond character standing next to a Thanksgiving turkey. She says it with such disgust that I am taken aback slightly. My sister sits closest to the television, a glazed smile on her face as the jokes roll by, “Who’s this idiot?” my mom says once again when the blond character reappears.

“Fine! I’ll change it!” my sister announces with annoyance. She flips through the channels and then eventually leaves it on a football game, which gives Maxwell something to dive into. Dorit turns to the dog, who’s laying next to me by the fire.

“Poo poo face!” my sister says with affection as she reaches out and twists the dog's pliable ear around her finger.

I give her a questioning look, “That’s sort of a weird pet name.”

“He is poo-poo face number 1,” she points to Maxwell, “and this is poo-poo face number two,” giving the dog a kiss on the nose.

“She didn’t start calling me that until the dog showed up.” He turns back to the TV, he’s the only one interested in the game.

“How is your job Maxwell?” my mom inquires. He takes his attention from the TV and begins to describe the window washing business in detail. I turn to my mom, who is sitting on the carpet. She is looking up at him on the couch and nodding, though I notice a slightly absent expression on her face, one she has often when people are talking. The corners of her mouth are moving, as though she wants to say something, as though there are sentences on the tip of her tongue that she does not allow to come out. Maxwell is in mid-sentence when she jumps up from her place on the carpet. She walks to the folding table that is set up by the sliding glass door and picks up the loaf of cranberry bread. “I know what I did wrong, I put two cups of water instead of one cup of oil and one of water.” She pulls on a piece of the bread and pops it into her mouth, she looks to the ceiling as she examines the flavor. She nods and then shakes her head, “it’s no good.”

When I turn towards Maxwell, he is already watching the game. Dorit is petting the dog again, my dad is still reading the newspaper. Thanksgiving is two days away and I feel the apartment getting a little smaller.

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