When I was about 10 years old, I read an original short story to my entire family at Thanksgiving dinner in Syracuse, New York. It was not very good.

I couldn’t tell you what it was about. It must’ve been succinct, because I recall reading it in a handful of minutes, and nobody complained about their gravy getting cold. All I remember for certain are two elements: The protagonist, Duke, and his weapon of choice, a fork.

Honestly, the story existed only to lampoon a single line from “Star Wars.” Instead of, “Use the Force, Luke,” my line was, “Use the fork, Duke.” Look, to a 10-year-old boy, this was high comedy.

But it was also a leap outside my comfort zone. I’m an introvert, or at least more introverted than most members of my father’s side of the family. They’re a loud Italian clan that debates Syracuse basketball, swaps stories about my semi-mythical grandparents, and halves all two-syllable names to one (Kyle to Ky, Tony to To, etc.).

Truth be told, sometimes I wasn’t sure I belonged. I shadowed my parents at most family gatherings, too shy to strike up conversations with my outgoing relatives. This whole impromptu live reading was quite the gamble. What if they hated my story?

They didn’t. They laughed. Hell, they applauded.

This moment reaffirmed a truth I already knew: Of course I belonged with my family. Because if they loved me enough to not only laugh at, but applaud, such a stupid joke, they’d love me no matter what.

I don’t think I properly thanked them for this memory, so thank you, Massa family. We missed seeing you this year, but we’re looking forward to many more Thanksgivings to come.

And may the fork be with you. Always.

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