Of course, you know about my big sister, Peggy Lou. I’ve mentioned her here a few times. There was the night she took my brother and me to visit the devil who lived at the church in town, and that other time she let me go canoeing by myself. One might think that Peggy Lou had it in for me, but that was not the case. She loved me, and, even if she WAS a terrible babysitter, she took her big sister role seriously. A little too seriously for my liking. While my other older siblings expressed their affection appropriately, with money, toys and attention, Peggy Lou felt compelled to contribute to the development of my moral character. She thought I needed help becoming a good person. I thought this was rich coming from the woman who once put me in a box and hid me in a dark basement during a game of hide and seek gone terribly wrong but that’s a story for another day.
In this story, it was Thanksgiving and Peggy Lou had just returned from hunting. As she walked by me, perched like a cat, self-satisfied and amused, on a chair somewhere in the vicinity of our mother, I saw the briefest glint flash in her eye, and the corner of her mouth lifted in a way that suggested a smile but not a “Ha ha” smile, more of a “Gotcha” kind of a smile. It was as though a mental box had just been checked off in Peggy Lou’s brain. My eyes narrowed suspiciously in response. What was she up to? I knew time would tell. I managed to control my fight or flight urge long enough to partake several times of the delicious Thanksgiving bounty spread across the countertops in my Aunt’s kitchen. Afterwards, on tryptophan overload, I sidled off to the living room for a little rest and relaxation before dessert. I didn’t want to be anywhere near Peggy Lou with her glinty eyes and also thought it best to stay out of the way of the cleaning up, which, tradition dictated, had to be done before the pies could be served.
I was curled up most comfortably on the couch, eyes glazed over, mouth hanging open, staring towards the television, when in walked Peggy Lou. I groaned inwardly. There’d be no napping with her in the room. She tossed a dish towel my way.
“Your turn”, she smirked.
“My turn?” I looked up at her. I was honestly baffled.
“I had my turn drying dishes and now it’s your turn”, she explained.
I couldn’t believe my ears. I had never been asked to wash the dishes. Peggy Lou must have gotten food poisoning or froze her brain out in the woods or something. She was obviously confused. Wait until I told my mother about this one. Then I remembered my mother didn’t ever do dishes. She made her kids do it. And I was her kid. This was not looking good for me. I could claim I was too young to wash the dishes but that went against every bone in my almost teen-aged body. I had recently taken to claiming I was old enough to ride into town alone on my bike and maybe even practice driving the car around the neighborhood. Did I really want to risk the inroads I was making with those arguments with a paradoxical claim that I was too young to do menial housework? And yet, no self-respecting almost teenager wants to be included on the dish drying rotation, either. I didn’t even know how to dry dishes. I looked around the room for some support. Everyone kept their eyes on the television. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t like to mess with Peggy Lou’s sensibilities. I wouldn’t be getting any help from these turkey-addled cowards.
“No pie until the dishes are done.”, Peggy Lou reminded. As if I needed reminding.
I sighed. There was no sense negotiating with Peggy Lou when she was threatening bad outcomes. I wouldn’t be the popular cousin if I held up the dessert train. These people wanted their pie. A few of them didn’t really need it but I did. I slunk nervously into the kitchen and manned the position next to my cousin, CCool, who was already elbow-deep in soapy water. Precocious as she was, she’d been washing dishes for years even though she was only two years older than me. She had her own snowmobile and her own horse, too. She might as well have been 32. She rinsed a dish and handed it to me. I dried it and put it on the counter. She handed me another one. I dried it and put it on the counter. We fell into a rhythm. Hey. This was easy. Leave it to Peggy Lou, I thought, to make it seem like some big imposition. Honestly, she was so lazy sometimes.
Happy Thanksgiving my friends.