It’s the day before Thanksgiving as I write this, and I’m excited. I will be taking a break from the road and spending quality holiday time with the Alberstadt family this year. I am truly thankful.

It’s a time to relax, a time to watch football, and a prime time to watch Dad’s nose hairs dance as he snores on the couch. What an amazing site to behold, like synchronized dancing waters. It never fails. Dad eats so much that he has to nap. Then the snoring starts and the hairs come out like cobras at the sound of a flute.

I joke, but I really admire Dad. He marches to the beat of his own drummer. And that drummer says stuff like “Keith will love a Lionel Richie LP” and “It’s okay to wear sandals to church…as long as I wear black socks.” As for the nose hair, I’m sure I’ll be that way too someday. One thing about us Alberstadt men…the older we get, we’ll accept hair wherever it grows. We’re just happy to have it somewhere. Like those hobbits and their hairy feet in Lord of the Rings. Hairy feet? There’s a twist. I hear in the next movie, Frodo reads too much Penthouse in the bathroom that he subsequently goes deaf.

Let’s get back on track here. The holiday season is the best part of the year. And that’s everything from Thanksgiving week to January 14 (my birthday, in case you weren’t paying attention from my last column). From turkey slices to Wild Turkey shots, the holidays rock!

It’s quality family time. I joke about them quite a bit, but they’re truly incredible. All of them…and there’s a lot. Siblings, parents, brothers in law, nephews, nieces, cats. Norman Rockwell doesn’t have enough ink to draw this family. Or enough liquor to make it all tolerable. My family is so large there’s a birthday every week-that’s a lot of free meals at Denny’s. But I’m starting to think the waitresses there hate us. That birthday song is sounding very insincere. “It’s your birthday here at Denny’s. Please take your ass to Chuck E Cheese!” (to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle, My Sherona). I guess the “please take your ass” line is sincere.

Here’s the fun part…my family is so big that I still have to sit at the kiddy table for big holiday meals. It basically works like this…there are eight spaces at the “adult table”. After you factor in my parents, my two sisters, and their husbands, there are two spaces left. One of those goes to the newest infant so he/she can be fed. And seeing as that my sisters’ procreation habits leave the Waltons in awe, there is always a new infant. So that leaves one last space. Either me or brother Paul (see photo) will get that one. In theory, both of us could sit with the kiddies, but my nephews would no doubt return to their homes with a new vocabulary…and a new appreciation for the art of flatulence. And my sisters know it. So therefore, only one jackass uncle can eat with their children. But how to decide?

We used to decide with the card game War, but it would never end until July. So we turned to doing shots until the loser passed out, like Marian and the big Himalayan in Raiders of the Lost Ark. But Mom frowned on that method, probably because we had to dip into her cooking sherry by the 23rd round. So we came up with a simple game. It’s a variation of Paper/Rock/Scissors. We call it Paper/Rock/Elbow-to-the-head.

Paul takes pride in his quickness, and he should. He’s like a martial artist, only with one move-the elbow to the head. Doesn’t sound like much of a movie idea, but then again…how does the idea of Jackie Chan and a magical tuxedo sound? I digress. I truly believe that Paul practices his elbow move throughout the year. Even more so in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, like Homer Simpson before Whacking Day (once again, God bless Matt Groening). So every year, I sit with the kids with an ice pack on my skull, too injured to say “Which one of you is Stephen?”

Of course Mom makes it sound important to sit at the kiddy table. She sugarcoats the idea with stuff like “It’s an important job, Keith. You are in charge…you are the Big Cheese…you are the King of the Table. Now…do you want juice or milk?” I usually talk myself into a beer, but I have to drink it from a sippee cup.

It’s not a bad experience at all. I love my nephews and nieces more than life itself or the Mets. But it’s a chore eating with them. First of all, my seat is only one foot from the ground, so my knees are at my ears. Therefore, I have to stick out my arms to cut my turkey, and if one utensil slips on some gravy, little Kendall learns how it feels to lose at Paper/Rock/Elbow-to-the-head. To correct this problem, I pull in my arms so that they’re wedged inside my thighs. Then I look like a T-Rex, only one trying to eat cranberry sauce and stuffing instead of a Raptor or Jeff Goldblum. Second of all, the kids don’t eat. They would rather stand then sit momentarily then stand again and then sit for a little while. Didn’t we cover enough of that at Sunday Mass? When they’re not moving around they say stuff like “Hey, Uncle Keith…watch this…I’m a B.B. gun.” That’s when I get in trouble for letting Will shoot corn out his nose. But I think it’s a unique talent that should be encouraged. He should enjoy it before he hits 45-that’s when the Alberstadt genes kick in and his little nasal cannons are blocked with something that resembles Don King’s afro.

I know, I know…I should cherish this time. They’re adorable kids, honestly. And when I find out how many points Jiggly Puff is worth, I’ll be able to follow their conversation. I try to join in by saying stuff like “Jiggly Puff is gay” and “Sit down or you’ll get a go go gadget foot to your ass!” But they don’t understand. I thought Inspector Gadget would be around forever. No, wait, that’s Grimace.

Most of the kids can talk. Two can’t. And one, Mary, still can’t pronounce certain words. Like “pilgrim”, “cornucopia”, and “Goldschlager”, but she tries. She can’t even pronounce “Uncle Keith”, but it’s so cute to hear her try. It comes out “Unc-Keith”. It sounds kind of like “Unkeith”, as in “Not Keith”, as in…Paul. She’s asking for Paul!! Paul, let’s switch seats! Hey, watch the elbow!

*Final note: Please know that when I joke about my family, specifically my nephews and nieces, I am truly joking. You won’t find cuter kids in the world, and I’m a proud uncle. Yes, I am a jackass of sorts, but I would never tell them they would get a foot to their ass. I do oftentimes forget which one Stephen is, but that’s it.

Categories: Columns