Our First Thanksgiving by Colin Kelly

Getting ready to host your first Thanksgiving dinner for your family can be complicated.
For Ryan and Shawn it’s going to be even more complicated.

Shawn and I moved in to our condo in Albany, just north of Berkeley, on the fifth of July. We could just barely afford the rent and utilities even though we had enough combined income. Thing is, we still had ever increasing tuition, fees, textbooks, and other expenses for the University of California Berkeley that created a big hole in our budgets. Still, by the third week in November we had saved up enough to invite our parents for a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner, our very first. We bought the turkey, frozen solid, at the local supermarket on a special for ninety-nine cents a pound the week before Thanksgiving. It sat in our refrigerator slowly defrosting and would be ready to put in the oven on Thursday morning, according to the friendly butcher at the store.

So, here we were on Thanksgiving morning getting everything ready. The table is set, the turkey is in the oven, I’m peeling potatoes, Shawn is making the stuffing for the turkey that we will bake in a casserole, the cranberry sauce and olives are out of their cans and put into bowls and along with the white wine and Champagne are chilling in the refrigerator, we’re going to be ready.

Then the phone rang.

“I’ll get it, Shawn!” I wiped my hands and picked up the phone.


“Good morning and happy Thanksgiving, Ryan. How are you boys doing with all of your kitchen duties?”

“We’re doing great, Mom. A happy Thanksgiving to you and Dad. Shawn and I rubbed the turkey with a mix of butter and herbs and it’s roasting in the upper oven, Shawn’s making the stuffing, and I’m peeling and cutting the potatoes and, like you told me, I’m putting them in salted water so they won’t discolor.”

“Good! How big is your turkey?”

“Twelve pounds. The butcher said this would be large enough for six people with some left over for sandwiches for me and Shawn.”

“Well, I don’t think there’ll be very much left over for sandwiches.”

“Why not? Twelve pounds is a big turkey. It just fits in the oven.”

“I have a surprise for you. Your Grandma and Grandpa Conner drove down from Portland day before yesterday and I talked to them and they’re going to join us for Thanksgiving dinner.”

“When did you talk to them and why did you invite them without talking to me first? We might not have enough of some things with two more people.”

“Ryan, I’m sure it will be fine. I couldn’t not invite them since your father and I will be having Thanksgiving dinner at your place. Besides, at their age they probably don’t eat that much.”

“What time are they going to be here?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe around three or four this afternoon.”

“Mom, we have to be ready with enough of everything. Like the pumpkin pie, it divides into six slices. Cutting it into eight slices means each slice will be small. I’m going to have to run over to the store and see if they have another pumpkin pie. We have six puff pastries for our appetizer. They can’t be sliced up, they’ll look like we’re cheap. I’m going to have to find more of them or get something else.

“There’s one other thing. The last time we went on a family visit to Portland I heard Grandpa Conner saying something about queers. If he comes over here and sees that Shawn and I are living together, and sleeping together, I don’t want him to go into a big homophobic rant and call us queers and spoil the day for the rest of us.”

“I think you’re overreacting. I don’t think Grandpa Conner is homophobic. But if he starts something I’ll have your Dad talk to him. Okay?”

“I guess. Just make sure he doesn’t start ranting about us and that will be okay.”

“I will. And I’ll phone them and get a firm arrival time and let you know.”

“Alright, getting the arrival time, that’s good. That way we can have everything ready to have dinner about an hour after they arrive. One other thing, we’re having Champagne for a Thanksgiving toast before dinner, and white wine with dinner. Shawn and I don’t drink, so we don’t have any hard liquor in the house, and neither of us likes beer so we don’t have any of that either. Is that going to be okay, especially with Grandpa Conner?”

“The Champagne and wine are fine for us and Grandma, and I assume for Shawn’s folks too. Grandpa Conner doesn’t drink since his last physical when his doctor scared him sober. Do you have anything non-alcoholic?”

“No, but since I’m going to the supermarket anyway I’ll get a couple bottles each of sparkling apple cider and sparkling water.”

“That sounds good. Remember that I’m bringing the green bean casserole and dinner rolls. I’ll need about thirty minutes in your oven for the casserole and ten minutes for the rolls.”

“No problem. We’re putting the casserole with the stuffing in the lower oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes before dinner. Your green bean casserole will fit without any problem. Then the cookie sheet with the rolls can go on the upper rack for the last ten minutes. Shawn’s mom is bringing the candied yams, and she says all they’ll need is a few minutes in the microwave. She’s also bringing the whipped cream for the pumpkin pie.”

“That should be fine. Now, I’ll let you get back to what you were doing. We’ll see you around one. I’ll let you know what time Grandma and Grandpa will be there. Bye for now.”

“Bye, Mom.”

“What was that all about, Ryan?” Shawn asked. So I explained the whole thing to him.

“How can one of your sets of grandparents be okay with us, and the other homophobic?”

“Different sides of the family. I’m just glad my mom doesn’t take after Grandpa Conner.”

“Me too, lover.” He leaned into me and we kissed. “Now get your cute butt over to the sink and finish the potatoes. Then a trip to the supermarket should be next on your agenda.”


It turned out that Grandma and Grandpa Conner arrived around two-fifteen, about an hour after my folks and Shawn’s folks arrived. That turned out to be fine because we were busy getting the rest of our Thanksgiving dinner ready. We both said “Hi” to them and I did the usual hugs and kisses bit then excused myself to return to the kitchen. Grandma offered to help, but I assured her that my mom and Shawn’s mom were already in our way and we were about to kick them out and I would feel bad if I had to kick my Grandma out too. She laughed and said she would prefer just sitting and getting caught up with the other guests.

Everything was in the oven or in the refrigerator and would be ready to put on the table in about a half hour, so Shawn and I took off our ‘Best Chef’ aprons and joined the others in the living room for a Champagne — and for Grandpa a sparkling apple cider — toast. I wanted to be calm about Grandpa Conner but I still worried about him making homophobic remarks.

I made the first toast, “Here’s to a happy Thanksgiving to all of us!”

My dad jumped in with his favorite Thanksgiving toast, the one he says every year, “There are two traditions on Thanksgiving. First, we watch football on TV and second we overeat. When we’re finished each of us is going feel like we ate a football!” This started the funny toasts.

Shawn said, “There are no diets on Thanksgiving, so everyone eat their fill, but remember to save room for pumpkin pie with whipped cream!”

Staying with the joke toasts, my mom said, “This is a toast for Ryan and Shawn, but is also a wish for your guests: May your stuffing be tasty, may your turkey be plump, may your potatoes and gravy have nary a lump, may your yams be delicious, and your pies take the prize, and may your Thanksgiving dinner stay off our thighs!” This got a big laugh, even though it’s sort of old.

Then Grandma got the biggest laugh of all when she said, “Well, my thighs are beyond repair, so I’m not going to worry about them!”

Shawn’s mom, Barbara, followed up with, “There’s only going to be one at our dinner who isn’t thankful that it’s Thanksgiving. The turkey!”

Then Shawn’s dad, Bill, stood up. “I have an important toast. This is for my son Shawn and his partner Ryan. This is the first family Thanksgiving you’ve hosted, and may there be many more!”

Everyone stood and said “Hear, hear!”

Except Grandpa stood but didn’t say anything. Instead he walked out the front door. My dad started to follow him, but Grandma put her hand on his arm. “He’ll be back, just give him a couple minutes.”

Shawn saw that I looked ready to cry, so he announced, “I think it’s time to refresh our Champagne. Ryan, come help me open the other bottle.”

I nodded but didn’t say anything as I followed him into the kitchen. I watched him open the bottle of Champagne, and he handed it to me. “Why don’t you refresh everyone’s glasses, Ryan.” He took the bottle of sparkling apple cider to refill Grandpa’s glass.

I took a deep breath and replied, “Okay.” I was pissed that Grandpa didn’t say the ‘Hear, hear’ with everyone else then walked out on us, but more sad because he didn’t accept our relationship.

I’d just refilled everyone’s glasses except Shawn’s and mine when I heard the front door open. Grandpa walked in carrying a large box. He bent over to put in on the coffee table then sat down.

“I’ve been waiting for these two boys to finally come out and tell me and my wife Doris that they were partners. Back in my day we’d call them queer. I had a cousin, Jerome, who happened to be my best friend and queer at the same time. Didn’t make any difference to me. Today they want us to call them gay. I don’t care if the title people put on ‘em is gay or queer. What I do care about is that Ryan never told us. So Doris and I, we decided to do something about it.

“We drove down from Portland. By the way, that’s a city filled with gays and queers or like I said, whatever title. Anyway, we drove down when Ryan’s mom told me she’d been invited to have Thanksgiving dinner at Ryan’s. So we decided to invite ourselves. We ordered a little something for them because I guess they aren’t going to have a wedding very soon and we wanted to show them that we think it’s great that they finally got together.”

“They are such a cute couple,” Grandma interjected.

Grandpa finished, “So boys, since there’s no better title for it, here’s our first Thanksgiving gift for the two of you.”

He stood and held up his glass of sparkling apple cider. “Here’s to Ryan and Shawn. Hear, hear!”

Everyone shouted “Hear, hear!” except me and Shawn. I had tears streaming down my cheeks, and when I looked at Shawn he did too. I grabbed him in a hug then kissed him. Everyone clapped and shouted their approval.

“Well,” Grandma said, “don’t just stand there, open your Thanksgiving gift!”

“It better not be a turkey,” Shawn said, laughing.

I pulled my Swiss Army Knife out of my pocket and cut the tape that sealed the box. Shawn pulled the bubble-wrap out of the top, and reached inside to lift the paper-wrapped contents.

“Oof!” he said as he pulled it out of the box, “This is heavy!”

I pulled the empty box out of the way and Shawn set the contents on the coffee table. We tore off the paper wrapping and the two of us stood there looking at our gift. Grandma and Grandpa had given us a sundial.

“We told them the GPS coordinates of your location, and they customized the sundial so it will show the correct time based on where you live,” Grandpa said.

Shawn and I stared at the inscription that had been molded into the top of the sundial. It was perfect, and we hugged Grandma and Grandpa.

“What’s it say, Ryan?” Dad asked me.

I grabbed Shawn’s hand and told him, “Let’s read it out loud.”

Ryan & Shawn Together Forever

We’ll never forget our First Thanksgiving Dinner and the absolutely perfect gift from my Grandma and Grandpa. It wasn’t the sundial even though that was a wonderful gift. Their absolutely perfect gift was their acceptance of us as partners for life.

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