countdown to Thanksgiving: “A Turkey Named Brotherhood”

Posts from now until Thanksgiving are going to be speculations on family, food, fat, feasting, famine, and fortune. The usual shit, but with a melancholy Thanksgiving twist. Awesome!

When I was a sophomore in high school, I spent most of the year living away from home. Along with my older sister, I lived first with a foster mother in Washington Heights, and then in Forest Hills Gardens with my best friend father and stepmother. I don’t remember the period preceding this year as being especially dark, but these events have lived in (and sometimes even clouded) my memories of my adolescence ever since.

The home in Washington Heights was an apartment occupied by an elderly Latina lady, the foster mother, her adult son (who was not allowed to be in the home), and another foster kid, a teenage girl who didn’t much care for me. She was engaged in some sort of inappropriate relationship with the adult son, so maybe that was source of some tension. In any case, I tried not to spend too much time alone with her.

School had always been a refuge — from my parents’ crowded apartment, from my parents, from my poor neighborhood — but was even more so during foster care. I could not wait to get to school. It sucked that the rules of foster care demanded that I had to be back at the home early enough that I couldn’t participate in any of my beloved extracurricular activities. And because I didn’t want anybody to know, these absences had to go unexplained. At least by me. I don’t know if my homeroom teacher or the head of the upper school ever told my teachers and advisors.

(I swear this was going to be a quick post about this clip.)

The hours spent at the home, when not sleeping, were spent trying to communicate with the foster mother (who didn’t speak much English) and trying not to get stabbed with a butter knife by the other girl. I think my sister played a big part in keeping her away from me. The few weekends we spent in her care were spent talking to social workers at the agency downtown, visiting the old lady’s doctor in the South Bronx, or taking our foster care allotment and spending it on clothes we didn’t really need or want.

We must have gone to live with Alan and Linda around Thanksgiving 1991 because the old lady took us to see The Addams Family. I remember thinking it was really funny, but not so funny that I could be utterly distracted by the fact that I had been living in a strange apartment in a strange neighborhood for a month. I wanted to get on the subway and go home so badly it makes me tear up just to remember it 18 years later. 18 years this week, give or take a few days.

A couple of years after being in foster care, my family was together again. We’d were living in a two-flat my grandparents bought in College Point, the worst neighborhood in Queens. My parents apartment, when we moved in, had contained abandoned furniture, including a refrigerator the freezer of which contained a maggot-ridden turkey. There were mysterious blood stains on the walls. We were together, had been since the summer of 1992, but we weren’t back where we were. And I don’t think we’ve been there since.

So how is this all related to this clip, of a Thanksgiving play performed at a summer camp? It isn’t really, but I thought you’d all want a laugh after reading this shit.

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