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A very Partridge Thanksgiving


My sister and I spent many of our Thanksgivings with Patricia’s family in a light purple flat deep in San Francisco’s Richmond district.  They represented pure all-Americana with dishes of turkey, stuffing, Japanese mixed rice, a small bowl of pork wrapped in seaweed stewed in a soy/marin sauce and mashed potatoes, all set on top of a festive table paper cloth of brown and orange turkey and pilgrim prints.

We all ate together in the living room, where the adult conversation was of things I never understood, and were of family stories in which I became lost.  As the adults continued to eat and laugh into the evening, Patricia, my sister and I would lock ourselves away in a room where our soared into the Partridge Family universe.

Patricia was the first to buy the Patridge Family albums, and our little group of David Cassidy loving girlfriends sang in step to her lead in re-enacting our Partridge world.  My sister played the role of Keith Partridge because she had the biggest, undisputed crush on David Cassidy.   Patricia, with her crystal clear, perfect pitch singing voice, was a natural for Mrs. Partridge.  With a long Joseph Magnin dress box turned faux keyboard in tow, I was always Laurie Partridge. Together with a mish mash combo of other friends, we spent many lazy afternoons acting out our own made up Partridge Family episodes, exploring torrid teenage love triangles, traumatic struggles with orthodontia and one exceptionally long “Tracy runs away because she wants to pout and be a victim” episode that ended at Rossi Playground.

On one particular Thanksgiving, our mini Partridge Family of Patricia, my sister and I settled into our world of make believe after all of the adult guests went home after a long evening of turkey and pie.  We began a new.“Keith Partridge in love at a classical concert taking place in an outdoor park” scenario in Patricia’s back room.  My sister, tackling the role of Keith Partridge, sat cross-legged the floor, picking away at the white carpeting as if it were blades of grass.  Patricia took on the guest role of Keith’s romantic interest, sitting next to my sister as if they were sharing a secret.

I took on the role of bandleader, borrowing a long piece of bamboo as my conductor’s baton.  With classical music softly playing on the record player, I made sweeping gestures with my arms.  My bamboo baton waved wildly in rhythm to the bold stings and winds of the music,  letting the little romantic Keith drama play out  until the mood shattered above me into brilliant pieces of falling smoky white ceiling light glass.  A sharp, long shard sliced a perfect line across my right cheek, but I never noticed the pain in the shock of wondering what kind of trouble I would be in once our mothers discovered my crime.

After hearing our screams and cries for help, Patricia’s mother came into the room, confused by the mess of broken glass and girls trying very hard not to laugh too hard.  Patricia’s mother’s fingers trembled while she applied antiseptic to my wound, her nervousness in confronting my mother quite apparent.   I sent apology after contrite apology to Patricia’s mother for breaking the lamp, but her repeated “….no, no, no…it’s okay…” was meant to keep me from sinking into Thanksgiving sadness.

My mother arrived to pick us up during the chaos, and she also offered her apologies to Patricia’s mother.

“We will replace the lamp,” she would offer, causing Patricia’s mother to repeat her “…no, no, no…”  This scene seemed to repeat itself in three minute intervals until the mothers disappeared into the living room.

My mother  had remained unusually quiet about the incident until we took our car ride home.  I knew some punishment would be involved, and I slumped down into the back seat, trying to escape her attention.  Instead, in the darkness of the evening as our Ford Falcon puttered along Balboa street, my mother told me her plan.

“When you get older,” she said, “men will not want to marry you because they will think you’ve gotten into a boating accident.  We will get you plastic surgery when you are 18.”

For many years after this incident, I watched the progression of the scar, wondering when it would envelope my face.  As I grew older, the scar seemed to stretch across my right cheek.  It showed up on yearbook and graduation photos until fizzling away into nothing.   The memory of it has still remained fresh and fond, an unforgettable Thanksgiving and the last of our Partridge fantasy.

(c) 2014 Slow Suburban Death.  All rights reserved.

Published inChildhoodFoodHolidaySan FranciscoShort Stories

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