Family. You can’t live with them, you can’t live withou.. ::pauses to imagine life without selected family members and sighs wistfully:: Family. You can’t live with them, and you’d probably be blissfully happy every day without them. ::sigh:: Family.
It’s the holiday season, a time of particular bitterness for me. On my side of the family, the holidays meant stress, screaming, arguing and accusations topped with cooking, decorating for no reason except to see it destroyed by my brother, and all around ill-will. Thanksgiving at my home was always a rich time of passive-aggression, topped with resentment with a side of f*ck you.
When we moved back to the US, for some reason, Thanksgiving fell on me. Mind you, I have to say the cooking bit, I LOVED. To no end. I miss being able to cook Thanksgiving dinner. I would get up early (which is a big deal for me) and I’d be in the kitchen all day; whipping together dish after dish because I wanted to try them.
Usually, because my brother likes to grab food out of other people’s plates and fling food sometimes, we did not have guests for Thanksgiving. So I was cooking for Satan Mom, Papa, my brother and myself alone. So while everyone slept or ignored me, the kitchen was mine to do with as I pleased, with the occasional control-freaking moment from my mom, who had given up on cooking the meal, but still felt it necessary to tell me how to do it in spite of my cooking being WAY better than hers.
I digress... I’d spend all day in the kitchen whipping together my stuffing, sweet potato casserole, delicious gravy, the turkey, cranberry apple sauce, fluffy mashed potatoes, pies and whatever else suited my fancy. Then I’d roust everyone from their rooms where they’d be hiding (Mom & Papa had their own rooms) and try to round them up to sit down for the meal. They’d eat and then boom, I’d be standing in the kitchen alone with the mess.
A couple of years before I moved out and got my apartment, Thanksgiving rolled ‘round and once more, it was up to me. I was excited to cook the meal, so I went shopping the day before. My mom on that Wednesday night before, decided to go to the social club she frequented at the time, and sit at the bar with her cronies, suck on cigarettes and flirt relentlessly with the rickety old dudes until the wee hours of the morning, so she got home sometime between 2:30AM and 3:00. I heard her come in, and she yelled something slurred about whatever, and went to bed.
That morning, it was snowing. It was particularly snowy before Thanksgiving that year and it was white and beautiful outside. I had a Boston classical station on, and I was up putzing around, cooking, doing my thing. Papa wandered in to pick at things I’d already cooked or chopped, and I shooed him away and then wandered away to his Ham radio to chat with his Hungarian friends. All day, I spent it alone. And come time Thanksgiving dinner was ready, I was already kind of worked up into a bit of a grump. So I went and pummeled on Mom’s door, and she responded with a gravelly, hoarse voice that she was coming, and I called Papa, who barely acknowledged me between CQs, and John was medicated and out like a light since I’d made him breakfast.
I stood there for half an hour and waited. I pummeled on Mom’s door again, and then called Daddy one more time, the irritation quite plain in my voice. This time my mom deigned to get out of her post-drunken slumber, and she came out looking like she’d rolled down the Matterhorn and Papa came shuffling out in his slippers. The first thing they do is start to bicker. It was over something completely inane, I can’t remember, but the bickering escalated as it naturally did in our household, and next thing you know my parents are screaming at each other at the top of their lungs and threatening each other and calling one another names.
I don’t know exactly what happened, but I kind of snapped. I was already upset at how taken for granted I felt, and then on top of that my hung-over mother and my oblivious father could not be bothered to behave like civilized creatures for the sake of the flipping holiday. I’d spent all day trying to make this nice meal for what? For this? I can recall the burning ire in my belly, and I can recall the sear of the tears in my eyes as my parents screamed and yelled at one another, and I just lost it. I picked up the turkey, and carried to the sliding door to the deck, carried it out through the thick layer of snow, and I threw the turkey off the deck into the snow. I then stormed inside, threw the tray on the table with a huge crash, and went into my room and locked the door. And that’s how I spent Thanksgiving.
Daddy was horrified and went downstairs and fished the turkey out of the snow, dried it off and they apparently ate some of the meal. Their argument was of course promptly curtailed by the flying turkey, but there was no apology, no assurances... nothing. They just ate and went back to their rooms,
A few years later, after I bought my house about 40 minutes away, I wanted nothing more than to host my own Thanksgiving dinner. I spent months beforehand collecting little doodads, service ware, candle stuff, whatever. I planned a menu, and invited friends; I was SO excited to have thanksgiving dinner with actual guests. I called my mom to tell her about it, and her response was to turn into a screaming freak. “WHAT? YOU ARE COMING HERE FOR THANKSGIVING!” she screamed. Her reaction was completely off the scale. Her voice was so loud I had to hold the phone a good eight inches from my ear, and I could still hear every spittle-laden expletive and vitriolic accusation. I think back on it now, and I still can’t believe what a horrid, selfish person my mother is. She expected me to de-invite my guests and to come to her house to cook HER thanksgiving dinner. I mean, seriously? And what’s worse? I DID! ::shakes her head in shame:: I moved my dinner to Saturday (losing three guests in doing so), and went to her home and made dinner again. And it was EXACTLY as it always was. I’d cook all day; they’d appear, eat, bicker and then go to their rooms leaving me with the mess.
My dinner at my place, in spite of it being on Saturday, was a revelation. To know what it was like to host a holiday dinner with nothing but good spirits, to cook in the kitchen with people you care about standing around, sipping wine, laughing, sitting around table, engaged, talking and sharing stories, to break bread without spite or anger or resentment... It was momentous for me. It proved that it could happen; you *could* have a happy Thanksgiving. One of the things I did was to put little votive cups at each place-setting, and with a thin taper, I had each guest state one thing they were thankful for, and then light their candle, and pass the taper onto the next person. It sounds kind of lame, but it was one of the most honest, loving moments I’ve ever experienced during the holidays. Man I miss those guys.
This year, I have family nearby again. A sister who I haven’t shared Thanksgiving dinner with since... Oh god, probably before we left Belgium, and Satan of course. We are splitting the cooking. I’m doing savoury and she’s doing desserts, with some minor exceptions here and there. We are driving to her house. It’s one of the rare Thanksgivings I’ve had since I moved to Oregon where I am not just a guest of someone else’s traditions... it’s my family. It’ll probably be a dance of humouring and manipulation to keep my mother under control, but my sister and I are pretty sure she’s going to say at least one offensive, accusatory thing, but we’ve agreed to let it roll off of our backs, and strive to distract her with other things to keep her mouth shut. It’ll be just the five of us and the dogs. I’ll let you know if there are any more flying turkies.