'Tis the season for turkey, stuffing, giving thanks, and plenty of competition.  That’s right. Competition.  And some of the fiercest competition I’ve ever seen occurs on Thanksgiving Day.  No, I’m not talking about the football games.  I’m talking about the unmatched competitiveness among my kinfolk.  A few of the competitive categories include speed, beauty, and cooking.

First of all there is speed.  That is:  Who can get to Aunt Vera’s house the fastest?

Cousin Todd is a mechanic at one of the dealerships in Richmond.  Besides stalking Miranda Lambert, Cousin Todd enjoys working on old cars.  Last year it was a ’57 Chevrolet.  The year before that it was a ’72 Porsche Roadster.  The make and model this year is anybody's guess.  Either way, he's the man to beat.  You can rest assured that he’ll be parked in Aunt Vera’s driveway long before anyone else.

“I made it here from Chesterfield in 1 hour, 2 minutes and 10 seconds,” he announces from the sofa as each of us arrive. 

I’ve never really understood who he’s trying to impress, but he sure finds a strange satisfaction in being the first in the driveway.  I don’t even think Miranda Lambert would even care.  And Aunt Vera isn’t much impressed either.

“That boy ain’t gonna be satisfied until he owns one of those Concorde jets, lands it out by the woodshed and wakes me up at four in the mornin’,” she complains.  

Rumor has it that Todd’s sister’s new husband, Carl Ray Emerson, used to race cars over in Waynesboro and just might be challenging the Chesterfield champion this year.  Things could get mighty ugly this Thursday.

From speed we move to beauty.  Aunt Clara and Aunt Beatrice have been competing for the title of “Fairest of Them All” ever since the two of them tied for runner-up in the Miss Albemarle pageant back in ’47.  Each swears that she would have won if it hadn’t been for that Lorraine Glass from Crozet who, if the truth be known, was ‘participating in extracurricular activities’ with that one ‘Clark Gable-looking judge’ who was a professor at UVa at the time.

During all the hugs and kisses from the other contestants while they crowned Lorraine Glass as Miss Albemarle, someone pushed the new queen which made her fall off the front of the stage and into the crowd.  Thankfully she was caught by that ‘Clark Gable-looking judge’ who seemed quite accustomed to holding the newly crowned Miss Albemarle in his arms.  Official charges were never brought, but both Aunt Clara and Aunt Beatrice took credit for the attack two years and a day after the pageant—just when the statute of limitations date was reached.       

Because the two ladies tied for runner-up, they have been vying for the crown ever since. So, at every family function, my two great aunts show up in their Oscar night finery whether we’re eating Thanksgiving dinner or having some of Uncle Bob’s venison on the grill in the backyard.  It’s a bit unsettling for everyone else to be dressed in T-shirts and jeans while my ostentatious aunts amble about in sequins and heels.  It’s a real shame that the Miss Albemarle contest wouldn’t allow two ladies in their 70’s with high-and-fancy hairdos to enter the pageant and settle the dispute once and for all.  It sure would make it easier on the rest of us.

From beauty we move into the competitive realm of cooking.  My Aunt Beulah and Aunt Vera are like a couple of June Cleavers on steroids and they are pretty outspoken about their culinary capabilities.  

“My fried chicken is so doggone good, one bite will make your tongue slap your brains out,” Aunt Beulah boasts.

“Well, one day back in ‘62, there was a knock at my door,” Aunt Vera begins.  “When I opened it, I discovered a couple of clean-cut fellas in black suits and sunglasses.  I noticed a long black limo parked in the driveway.  They informed me they were there upon request of our First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy.  I had entered my pecan pie in the baked goods category of the Virginia State Fair.  Mrs. Kennedy was an honorary judge that year.  I won the blue ribbon and a week later, her secret service men were knockin’ on my door for the recipe.  It’s been passed down to every First Lady since then.”

Oddly enough, no one has any recollection of any member of our family suffering from having his or her tongue slap his or her brains out or Mrs. Kennedy ever judging a single category at the Virginia State Fair in ’62, but no one wants to challenge these ladies.  We just make sure that whatever the two of them bring, both dishes are empty at the end of the meal.  This assures two things:  Neither of them has hurt feelings and no one gets hurt when the two of them start throwing things.

They say competition is a healthy thing.  Healthy or not, it sure can add a bit of pizzazz to any family function.  Whether you are the one who is racing to be the first to arrive at Grandma’s house, or the one buying the sequined gown that you think will make you look twenty years younger, or even if you have destroyed your kitchen looking for that one recipe that will make everyone else’s dish pale in comparison, may you have a wonderful Thanksgiving despite all the trimmings.  But most of all, may your kinfolk have the patience to put up with you.

Let the games begin!

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