The sound of the main character and the only action you do the entire day in the States…Gobble day.
I think of this as much more accurate than “Thanksgiving” considering I’m not really sure I remember many family gatherings in which anyone thanked anyone for anything without a sarcastic undertone. Of course, I could also point out the irony that we in the States spend a day gorging on too much food and being thankful for what we have, the day before we pour out of our homes in droves at midnight to go and buy more shit we don’t need for this atrocity called “Black Friday.”
This holiday it will be just me and the kid. The kid wanted HoneyBaked ham this year. Considering that gets me out of most of the cooking, I was totally down. The biggest issue so far as been the argument we had over getting a mini-ham (4-5 people) vs. the half ham (7-10). The kid was for the bigger one and declared, “I can take it out,” with a level of seriousness that made even the checkout girl cave and grab the half-ham.
That’s not to say Thanksgiving isn’t fun with my family, it actually is. However, it was never what I would call “traditional.”
One year, one of my uncles borrowed his friend’s boat and we all pot-lucked (everyone brought a dish or so) and went for a sail. My mother decided to wear the plastic fork earrings I had gotten her as a gag. They came in handy… when she got sandwiched in one of those circular seated tables and couldn’t get anyone’s attention to grab her a fork, she just took off one her earrings and dug in.
Another year, an aunt hosted it and served fondue. I find the concept of fondue entertaining, but in anticipation of the holiday I had forgone eating for about a day or so, so being really fucking hungry made it a somewhat miserable experience at first and I stole as many of those damn skewers as I could find in order to cook as many tidbits as possible in one go. Of course, I stopped noticing the hunger when the alcohol kicked in, which it did quite quickly with nothing in my stomach standing in its way.
One year my devout former in-laws interacted with my rambunctious family from hell (didn’t happen often with 2k+ miles between them thankfully), and one of my uncles took my ex-spouse for a trip over the lake in a small glider airplane. My ex was a lightweight when it came to drinking and had already had a couple drinks (blushing and sweating the entire time since their own dry, religious family were present) when they went off. When they returned, my spouse was walking much like John Wayne, only slower and angled sideways. Apparently, my considerate uncle realized the inebriation and had proceeded to cut flips all the way back.
If my grand cooked, the bird would be like eating shredded cardboard. All the giblet gravy in the world could not salvage it (sucking sounds from across the room, I did say that about the turkey right?). Then there were the vegetables… I’m not sure what imaginary disease that my grand was trying to eliminate by overcooking to the level they did, but if you handled any of it too much, it disintegrated into goo. My grand is the reason I detested steak until I was thirteen. I remember on more than one occasion when my grand would ask my mom, “Wow, what did you do to make this meat so tender?” and my mom would respond, “Well, I took it out of the oven about an hour before you would have.”
Last year, we met at my aunt’s house and played a pants-wetting round of Cards Against Humanity. I like this game. I also got to see some of my cousins, one in particular I very rarely see and, because of my grand, we have never really been close. I had to interact with the aunt I don’t care for, but with enough alcohol, I handled it fine. Its good that I’m a happy drunk. The hosting aunt however is one of those rare gems who sees the good in everything and everyone. She tends to let shit roll. She made all of us declare something we’re thankful for and made a speech that really spoke in the essence of the holiday. She isn’t blood-related is what I’m saying, and I adore her.
Since her kids are now grown and out of the house, she is trying to sell the house that was kind of the epicenter of our gatherings since I was a teen. Her kids aren’t happy about it, one going so far as to stalk the website in which it was first listed and declare the house unfit for living, riddled with termites, about to collapse, or anything to deter interest (obvious where those blood-related genes come in). If I weren’t an adult, I would consider doing the same. I cannot help but feel when she sells it, we’ll never see her again. She spent so many years trying to keep together the family that my grand tried so hard to tear apart, that it feels like she’s kind of given up on us. I hope its just my own delusion.
She and my uncle were on the verge of divorce when he suddenly died, and there was a lot that surfaced when he did. I can only guess how hurt and betrayed she must have felt to find out so much about someone you’ve been with for so long. It must have all felt like a lie. I know when I was little, my uncle was never living in the same place whenever we visited him. I only later became aware that, during one particular summer, his “work camp” was a nice word for “minimum security prison.” He was one of those Idea Men…. the type that is too brilliant, has a ton of pretty good ideas and absolute no commitment to their execution and development and no impulse control. He never seemed to get that his actions had consequences. So he floated…. from job to job, from girl to girl, room to apartment to house to car and go where the wind took him. He had once even been married in his youth, one day he said he was going out for a pack of cigarettes and just never came back. It was often his number was disconnected when we called.
Then he met my aunt. She completely grounded him. He became someone much more… devoted, more reasonable, more stable, more conscientious, more honest than I had ever seen. He finally grew the fuck up. Anything she wanted, he did his best to make happen. They just clicked and it was wonderful to see. I suppose I took it all for granted that he would just lay it all out for her about his past. I assumed that’s just what you did when you committed yourself to someone. Maybe not divulging your BM schedule, but at least enough that they would never feel run over by some truth you failed to tell.
But… I guess not. I don’t know the details, I’ve never had the guts to ask. Considering I’m his blood relative, I cannot help but feel like I’m somehow an enemy, even though I’d trade in a heartbeat. I don’t know that I wouldn’t want to slough off the baggage that came with a bad ex as well, but then… I’m still close to my former in-laws, so maybe I think differently.
I know that she was first adult I’d ever met who didn’t ask what I thought facetiously. She was the first adult I’d ever met that asked my opinion… and actually listened. She was the first adult I met who could talk to me like an equal, not as something lower than herself. She was open-minded, non judgemental and not accusatory. It was like a foreign world to me to be in her presence, but addictive for the preteen I was. I felt like I could tell her anything and it would be safe. I didn’t know that was even possible with adults.
This year, we will be gathering at her youngest kid’s apartment post-holiday for a lunch. I think its adorable and wonderful that baby girl wants her family in her “nest.” I hope I might garner some indication from my aunt as to whether she is truly done with us. If I could go back and beat the shit out of my uncle for making her feel this way, I would in a heartbeat. The best I can do now though, is just grab onto her and tell her how much she means to me, but then that’s kind of the real point of the holiday season isn’t it?