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A time for gratitude

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a day when we gather to eat elbow-to-elbow with people we try to avoid the rest of the year.

Just kidding. What we'll actually do is eat until we collapse, and upon waking, eat again. What, just me?

Some Thanksgiving elements are universal.

Grandmother (or Meemaw, because this is the South — I've never known a Meemaw from above the Mason-Dixon line) will still be wearing her apron when everyone arrives.

Because no Thanksgiving has ever started at the appointed hour, there will be cheese straws, deviled eggs and a few awkward lulls in the conversation before the big event. Spinach-artichoke dip in a bread bowl may or may not be served. Hummus with pita points has no chance. A block of cream cheese smothered in hot pepper jelly with captain's wafers is much more likely.

A couple of men will go outside for a little truck likker, while everyone pretends not to notice. Some people need truck likker to get through Thanksgiving.

The meal: After some milling around, everyone will find their seats. Someone will "ask the blessing" before lots of talk about COVID (on the wane?) and inflation (out of control). Someone will say, "Guess how much this turkey cost?"

The convo always turns to canned cranberries: Jellied or whole? We'll debate stuffing vs. dressing (I use them interchangeably) and then argue ingredients — oyster or cornbread? Sage or sausage?

Aunt Lou will keep trying to pass the giblet gravy to the vegetarians, who are scarfing brussels sprouts and potato salad like nobody's business.

Somebody will make a joke about Sleepy Joe. Someone else will earnestly explain Trump’s plan for re-election.

We may eat in a fancy dining room with a lace tablecloth and heavy silverware, or sit in front of the TV, watching a game and eating off paper plates.

Whatever room we gather in will be too hot and a dog will be underfoot, hoping for someone to drop something, anything — except broccoli. Even dogs have standards.

We'll drink either sweet tea or unsweetened tea, and there will definitely be an argument about that. Gravy also tends to incite disagreement: Should it be made from pan drippings or poured from a jar?

Because this is the South, the matriarchs will issue a warning: "Don't y'all get too full, we made three pies, a cake and Watergate salad.”

Somebody will make a pot of coffee. Half the guests will say they can't handle caffeine, the other half hates decaf. Then a spirited debate over the virtues of, say, a Mr. Coffee versus a single-serve Keurig will ensue. This ends when someone makes a case for hot tea, at which point everyone will accuse him or her of putting on airs and/or watching too much "Downton Abbey."

Some of us will tear up in gratitude at being surrounded by loved ones. Some of us will swallow resentment along with pie and wonder, why do we keep doing this? Who are these people?

We do it because, unless our kin are truly toxic, we’re irresistibly drawn to our tribe. It’s in our DNA to gather with our peeps. (And if your family is toxic, you have my sympathy and heartiest wishes for a happy Friendsgiving. I hear they’re amazing.)

As an adult I've enjoyed Thanksgiving with relatives I love but drive me crazy; I've celebrated Thanksgiving surrounded by pals. I've spent one or two alone, which is actually not bad — nobody argued and cleanup was a breeze.

In the end, Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude. Do (and eat) what makes you grateful to be alive.

P.S. Gravy from a jar is not a cardinal sin.