I haven’t always been able to make it home for Thanksgiving. When I lived in California, I had the time off but no money for a plane ticket. I was also in my early twenties so the sentimentality of it was beyond me. I can’t remember even having a “friendsgiving.” I bet I spent the day at the beach.
One Thanksgiving the hubby and I lived in Maryland with our first child. Between the weather, the cost for airfare, and the daunting task of traveling cross-country with an infant, we chose not to travel. We ended up at a friend’s house in Annapolis. It was the fanciest Thanksgiving I’ve ever experienced before or since. We all fit around the dining room table, no one was holding a plate in their lap and balancing their drink on the arm of a couch. The antique candlesticks were lit and provided an intimate mood. I had wine in an actual wineglass, and my meal was eaten off their family china with actual silverware and my napkin was linen. I remember the stuffing had nuts in it which was confusing to me and it was the first time in my life I had even seen a brussel sprout. It was a wonderful Thanksgiving.
It’s just not what makes my heart swell with contentment.
My family Thanksgiving is less fancy and more along the lines of a loosely managed brawl. It doesn’t matter which house it’s being hosted at, if it’s not jammed packed with people, then someone wasn’t being friendly enough to invite everyone. It’s always been that way my entire life. We are mashed into the house and every surface, shelf, chair edge is used for food prep, food placement, or the place a person will squeeze into for dinner. I remember one year a few people had to sit on the porch swing outside to eat. We have family, extended family, friends and acquaintances invited at the last-minute if we discovered they were all alone for the holiday. The food is prepared in bulk. Multiple bags of potatoes are peeled, the turkey will be the biggest one my mom can find along with a huge ham and if we don’t have enough desserts for everyone to eat an entire pie then something has gone wrong. The family members that know how to cook will all have been assigned a key food and those that can’t cook have to bring everything else.
My mom still let’s me have the illusion that I’m one of the family members that can cook. My assignment has always been the green bean casserole. The green bean casserole is the food task you give 5 year olds to distract them while you do the real work. I’m 38 years old. You dump green beans and cream of mushroom soup into a pan and shove it into the oven. That’s it.
My mom still praises me like a small child or a puppy once everyone is sitting down. She still does it in that baby-talk voice without realizing it. “Who did such a good job with the green beans? Who did a good job? Reesie did! Reesie did such a good job, you are so smart, you are such a good cook, baby. Good girl. Gooooood girrrrrl.”
I don’t care. If I had a tail, I’d wag it when she says that. I opened the hell out of those green bean cans.
Solo cups are lined up filled with ice and sweet tea, we use those huge oval paper plates that could double as an actual serving platter. They are very sturdy and you can pile them up very high with food. The house will be crowded so you want to get a lot of food the first time around so you can sit and stay out of the way. Mom gets cranky if you are lingering in the kitchen when people are still hungry. God help you if you get back in line before everyone has eaten the first round.
This year the dynamic was very small children and a lot of elderly family with walkers. The conversation was a combination of the 80 and 90 year olds yelling because their hearing aids weren’t working and the 2-7 year old crowd yelling because that’s just what 2-7 year olds do. Predictably, both crowds were willing to discuss bathroom concerns and weird rashes.
Aside from the press of people and the 20 min free for all food consumption, we always end up having messy family dynamics for the holidays. We aren’t just there for the one day, we are there for multiple days. Multiple days that pull everyone away from their routine.
Messed up routines mess up attitudes.
I’m not sure it’s possible to have conflict-free holidays when you have exhausted travelers, overworked hosts, very dynamic strong-willed people, inconvenient sleeping arrangements, one bathroom, different agendas, hunting season, football games, work schedules, health issues, food restrictions, small children and multiple families to visit. Plus, everyone has that one family member that manages to be the most oblivious, selfish, inconsiderate asshole that ever lived. It’s the Holiday Albatross we all have to live with.
Someone’s going to get upset over something.
Many times that someone has been me. This time, that someone was me. Okay fine, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t at least one of the people upset over something. I like my routine just as much as anyone.
I was listening to the John Tesh radio show and he always has interesting tidbits between the music. He was talking about a book: “Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions…”
I’m sure it has a lot of information in the book, but the tidbit John Tesh was discussing was why we have a hard time apologizing. We all think we are good people. Even the Holiday Albatross thinks they are a good person. They probably think that more than anyone. Bless their hearts. Apologizing and stating we were wrong goes against our self-perception of our motives and our actions.
I know my motives were pure. I must be right. I’m not the one that needs to apologize.
In the end it doesn’t matter who it right and who is wrong because this is family. Love doesn’t work like that. Love is 100% effort on everyone’s part, not a business transaction of who is right and wrong. We fight, we kiss, we hug, we text, we talk, we argue, we laugh, we smile, we love. That’s family. Family worth traveling across country to visit.
It’s hard for me to have regrets over the upsets. It just adds to the spice of life and the memories. At least for me. Love is messy. The holidays are messy. It’s the messy that makes the memories not the fine china and linen napkins.
Thank God for my messy.