When it becomes evident that I intend to sit at the kids' table, all the other adults look at me, and I look at them, with the same expression, and it says: You cannot possibly want to sit with them.

Shaymus is delighted; he is convinced he will be sitting on my lap throughout dinner. I agree, then remind him of the clause in his contract that states dessert will only be issued to big boys who sit in their own chairs. He has no idea what I'm talking about but I think he has learned to recognize the word "contract" as meaning Come on, Shaymus, I really mean it, seriously.

He does sit on me during the blessing, turned around to face me, his forehead against mine, rubbing my earlobes gently. Where did he pick this up? It's nothing his parents do, not that I've ever seen. Maybe he got it from his new! best! friend!, the odd British kid who lives up the street, who has invited himself to a second Thanksgiving dinner at our house, ours being late and his having been early. I can hear him blowing bubbles in his milk during the prayer which Drew is stretching pretty far for a man who doesn't go to church.

The British kid does not distract me and neither does the prayer. Usually when Shaymus does this ear-rubbing thing he is talking to me; I'm not used to him silently staring in. This close up he looks like a fish, all buggy bluegreen eyes, but it isn't meant to be funny; he is not smiling nor frowning; he is simply intent. He knows he is taking care of me.

The prayer ends and Shaymus draws back, puts his little hands on my cheeks, nods and smiles, hops off my lap. Leaves me sitting, dumb.

As the resident person with best-developed motor skills it is my job to dish out the food. We do not have any of the big-table regulations. We do not believe in the bogus rule of having to try a little of everything. All the British kid wants is carrots. Fine. Shaymus is adamant about not letting anything touch anything else on his plate - an annoying trait I feel sure I can break him of, given one intensive food-squishing-together session - but now is not the time.

As I am lowering a spoonful of mashed potatoes onto Shaymus's plate with architectural precision, Emma announces that she, too, would enjoy some mashed potatoes. Shaymus immediately (like a spasm) grabs his knife and relocates his potatoes, or some of them, onto her plate. Shaymus is going to marry Emma.

So, we eat. One of us knocks over a glass of water, one of us eats her green beans with her hands, one of us can't believe she ever tried sitting at the other table. Emma says, What are they talking about over there? Are they talking about my school? Shaymus looks at her and says flatly, Emma, who really cares. When I do concede to one tradition and casually ask them what they are thankful for this year, Shaymus pounds his spoon on the table and says I am thankful there's no grownups at this table to mess it all up!   Nobody corrects him, because he is right.

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