|In which I ensure I'll never be invited to anyone's Thanksgiving Dinner. Ever.
||[Nov. 28th, 2011|02:57 pm]
Thanksgiving. Despite mostly being based around food, it’s one of my least favorite holidays. It’s a lot of sitting around. It’s about eating to excess. There may be a television involved. There’s a rigidity to the menu that oppresses. (Says the woman who’s pretty much had the same menu for Easter for the past seven years.) All that starch. All of those purees. The epic battle between the people who want to try something new and the people for whom an alteration in flavor drives them to wail and gnash teeth. |
Admittedly, most of my adult life, Thanksgiving has been spent with in-laws, or the romantic partner equivalent. Hard and fast rule: I don’t drive up Rt. 95 for a one-day holiday. Some glorious early years of an orphan’s Thanksgiving, but then the mother-in-law moved to the area and Thanksgiving slid from a wine-soaked, comedy-drenched bacchanalia to a dry family affair. And by dry, I mean more than just the turkey. And while I’m not dependent on alcohol to have a good time…it certainly helps when you’re crowded into small rooms with too many people. And of course, when something’s forbidden….
And some people enjoy other people’s relatives more than their own, are grateful to marry/partner into another family grouping in order to escape their DNA pool. I'm not one of them. Which isn’t a cut on my in-laws and variants but, hey, my family’s lively. Snark, conspiracy theory and grandiose opinions flow like wine. And the wine ALSO flows like wine. If the wine were in a barrel-sized container, with a wide mouth, and being held by a very tall, strong giant. Everyone gets along. There’s no undercurrent of hurt feelings, resentments, no absent guests who are making a POINT by not being there, no general feeling that for this ONE day, everyone’s checked their weapons at the door.
Admittedly, my family Thanksgiving doesn’t include most of our actual relatives. So, it’s just immediate family, and my brother’s in-laws, and they’re all fun, and whatever family friends/business associates that are at risk of being alone, but are also required to be fun. When you make your own family, they tend to be more fun. Less of an accumulation of baggage being dragged along behind them like Marley’s chains and pulled out once a year.
And, of course, there’s a certain amount of comfort in your own family’s rituals. Coming from the family that I do, I probably have an unnatural amount of DISCOMFORT settling into other people’s rituals. For starters, we’ve been celebrating this event the same way for generations. Okay, so now we cook and serve the meal ourselves, but it’s on the same plates and silver as the great-great grandparents. Add generations of tradition to my natural snark, serve it up with Danish pigheadedness about how things should be done and it’s a deadly combination.
So, it’s exhausting for me to spend this holiday with someone else’s family. Keeping my face carefully poised as I reach for a plate on the buffet, while my brain is thinking “Paper?” and half my muscle fibers are twitching to go rummage in the kitchen to find actual plates. It’s okay if they don’t match, I mutter under my breath, but still, not DISPOSABLE. And table, oh, my goodness, we are NOT sitting on the couch and balancing the paper plates on….I mean, the odds of me being able to eat anything involving gravy with a plate perched on my actual body WITHOUT spilling it all over myself…I don’t think there’s a bookmaker that’ll cover those odds. But you have to have a table. It can be a series of wood boards propped up on sawhorses and aquarium stands that winds around the house, ending just outside the bathroom with a set of facing TV trays, covered in sheets. But table. Even the pilgrims used a table.
And while the television might be on beforehand for parades and football…once it’s dinner time, off it goes. If it’s a critical game, it might be left on, muted, in another room. But I’ve spent many Thanksgivings at other people’s tables, like some kind of modern day medium, trying to keep the ghost of my grandmother from taking over my vocal chords to say “Pardon me, but has anyone ELSE noticed that the television is still on? We ARE at the table, are we not? Did we LEAVE someone in there by mistake?” Which means I’m a lousy conversationalist at best, what with the power struggle going on in my larynx.
Mind you, I suspect the years away from my family’s Thanksgiving table have also added a gilding of nostalgia. After all, I’ve only been once in perhaps the past 5 years. And in that time, most of the family has become vegetarian, my nieces have grown old enough to voice their palate opinions – and sadly, they take after their father, Emperor of Fussy Eaters. And my mother’s been beaten down by years of dealing with fussy, white bread, what’s THAT? vegetarians. Plus, half the time it’s now at the in-laws.
Like so many things you remember fondly and hold up as the gold standard against which all others pale…the Thanksgiving I remember doesn’t really exist.