The Year my Grandmother Ruined Thanksgiving with her Coke Nail

I sat on the carpet and pretended to be engrossed in the Montel Williams show coming through the giant console television in front of me. But what I was really focused on was behind me: my grandmother—known affectionately as Mother — in her easy chair the same color as a baked potato. She was clicking her pinky and thumbnails back and forth, biding her time until she’d light her next Marlboro Red cigarette.

Mother has always maintained one exceptionally long thumbnail on her right hand. The other nails are comparatively…