Nine Thanksgivings spent with the Hackney’s as of today. Back in 2004, having been dating my husband Bobby for only about six months, it is to the best of my knowledge the first time I spent with his entire immediate family. He’s the oldest of 5, the youngest of whom was only 3 at the time. He hid under the table and I watched him, with one eye open while Bobby’s father, hands the size of meat hooks (much like OJ Simpson’s hands, as described by MY father, but that’s a story for another time) clasped in front of him, said grace. We stuffed ourselves silly, but what made my stomach ache to levels previously reached only by an ill fated china buffet incident in the late 90′s, was the company. I say with no level of uncertainty I have NEVER laughed that hard in all my life.
Now the thing about Bobby that anyone who has ever been within, oh, like a mile and a half of him will tell you is that he is the NICEST person you’ll ever meet. Seriously. (He also loads the dishwasher like a drunk baboon, so MINUS TEN POINTS.) Imagine the absolute delight I took in hearing from his six years younger sister about a birthday “gift” from her loving older brother:
“On my sixth or seventh birthday I had a party with all my friends. We sat in a circle to open my presents. As I finished Bobby came in and handed me one last gift. ‘From me’, he said. I was so excited. My big brother getting me a gift! I ripped the paper off and do you know what that cling on did?! He had gone into the hamper and dug out a pair of my UNDERWEAR and WRAPPED THEM UP.”
Hysterical laughter, howling like I’ve never heard, coming from Mr. Nice Guy himself.
“I BET THEY HAD SOME ROADRUNNERS IN THEM TOO!”, he adds for good measure.
I’m now nearly going into cardiac arrest, weakly slapping the man because 20 some odd years later he still deserves it.
“Bobby! That was low!”
“Yeah, well once I set up milk crates and I convinced her I could jump over her head and kicked her square in the face.” Crossing his arms over his chest he looked off into the distance, clearly remembering the majesty of his false sense of Michael Jordan-ness. “I could have made it too. If she stood still.”
And on and on it went. Story after story. Brother vs. Sister, Middle brother vs. Older brother, Parents vs. All. By the time we headed home that night, I felt like my guts were going to explode.
In the years that have followed we’ve had two kids, Bobby’s sister has a son and the three year old under the table is now taller than me with a far more exciting social calendar. But once through that door, it doesn’t matter. They’re ALL KIDS. Hats get slapped off heads, the thief dashing away with glee, until inevitably getting caught and pummeled into submission. Shouts of, “HEY! NOT NEAR THE STOVE!” ring out as the next round of wrestling rolls its way into the kitchen. My son, the lowest on the totem pole of torture today as my sister in law and her family were out of town, LIVES for it. When the whines of “OW! STOOOOOP” dance in from the living room, Bobby reminds Kier of the phrase I’m most proud to have brought to our parenting table- “DON’T WRITE A CHECK THAT YOUR BUTT CAN’T CASH!”.
As we wrap up tonight and walk out into the cold, all four of us pausing to look up at the star filled sky, I’m thankful for all of it. From that first holiday when I left knowing I’d found more than a nice guy but a family full (even though I could now call Bobby’s levels into question) to today feeling as much a part of the Hackney’s as any sibling who gave someone a concussion during feats of strength.
Now Christmas is right around the corner. I’d better get to list making because if that man wraps up a pair of my underwear, I’m going to be setting up some milk crates and I KNOW I can’t clear him. Even if he stands still.