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Sylvor Greenberg, Abigail , Notes on a Coastal Thanksgiving


Abigail Sylvor Greenberg
Age: 17, Grade: 12

School Name: Brearley School, New York, NY
Educators: Thomas March , Danielle Sheeler

Category: Personal Essay & Memoir

Notes on a Coastal Thanksgiving

We saw on Instagram that Allison is going by “Dandy” now, and using they/them pronouns. They don’t say anything about it when they show up at 9:00 on the morning of Thanksgiving. Instead, we stand around Nana’s kitchen island, and they say they’re recently into astrology. Apparently, because I am an Aquarius, I should not date Capricorns.

I settle in the chair that used to be off-limits—Papa’s Chair. The Macy’s Parade is playing, muted, on Nana’s closed caption TV, and the video is off sync with the subtitles: a massive Pikachu is rolling across the screen, but the text is Savannah Guthrie talking about the record-shattering diversity of the 2018 Rockettes. I have friends at home who watch through their windows on Central Park West, but Nana’s sunny living room in Rancho Mirage, CA is the only vantage point I’ve ever had.

Nana pads out of her bedroom with her lips already lined, meaning it’s time for my mom to blind-bake the pie crust. My sister, an art student, announces she’s going to cut out pieces of dough in the shape of human noses and use them to decorate the top of the pumpkin pie. Maybe she will spare the tiny vegan pie we’ve reserved for Maya, my same-age cousin.

Dandy goes out to their car and comes back in with a big Ziplock bag. They empty its contents onto a plate, scribble on an index card, and lay both on the coffee table in front of me. “CBD chocolate,” they say, “if anyone wants it.” The card reads Gold Wrapped – 20mg. Dandy works for a cannabis chocolatier—which they tell Nana is is just a regular chocolatier—and this is their offering to us.

I don’t know if 20 mg of CBD is a lot, but I figure it must be benign, because Dandy has put it out on Thanksgiving morning like the cookies my mom sometimes makes out of leftover pie crust.  I glance at my mom and eat one. My sister is next, snagging two. Then Maya, after confirming they’re vegan. Then my dad emerges from the patio, where he has been pretending to read Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari to avoid doing chores. He asks what ‘CDB’ is, and Dandy answers from the kitchen that it’s a phytocannabinoid. He eats one.

Nana is last. She reminds Dandy she has a lot to do today. She can’t be stoned, or who will stuff the turkey?  We all hate stuffing, but we are afraid to tell her. Then, with her red press-on nails, she unwraps it and bites it. From then through dinner, all she talks about is how glad she is to have tried it: “I never really tried things when I was young,” she says again and again. 

My History teacher once asked what would happen if California and New York seceded to form a new, discontiguous country. The answer was offered, microcosmically, in Nana’s kitchen the day we all drugged our way through Thanksgiving.

Nana was raised in Detroit. She dreamed the University of Michigan would beat Ohio State, and it did. She dreamed of getting married right out of college, and she did. She dreamed of finding love again after divorce, and she did. She and Papa moved out West for golf and weather. By accident, they got the whole sprawl of California for the price of one house on a cul de sac. Now, Nana must brave vegan, non-binary, cannabis-infused holidays on her own.

The next time I see Dandy, they tell me they’re not sure they’ll go back to Thanksgiving; they don’t feel safe. I know what they mean because my mom still calls them Allison and uses the wrong pronouns, and when I ask her why, she says it’s because Dandy never explicitly instructed her not to.

I don’t know how someone so traditional as my Nana spawned this mess, how we ended up here, how my great grandmother’s stack of handwritten recipe index cards—for Jell-o molds and fruit compote—ended up right next to a plate of hemp chocolate.  According to an article I saw in Harvard Medical Review, humans have had cannabinoid receptors the whole time, but we’ve only just decided to use them, to soften the hard edges of Nana’s kitchen surfaces.

In our small, bi-coastal confederation, the old guard is losing steam, caving in, passing on. Soon the bird will go unstuffed on Thanksgiving day, or we will begin stuffing it with adaptogens. And maybe we will bring our augmented, amended forms to sit around a table or on a couch. There will be noses on the pie, and tofu in the center. There will be cannabinoids on our receptors (and holes in our noses, and gaps in our transcripts), maybe because things have gotten that bad in their terrible rigidity, and maybe because we are thankful, really thankful, to be alive now, when we don’t have to inherit things we don’t want to inherit.