Home for the Holidaze
At Home Tennessee columnist Mandi Gaskin braves the battlefield where many visit but few survive: A Family Thanksgiving.
I love this time of year. A chill takes hold of the air, pumpkins are being carved and turkeys are running for their lives. It’s a time of peace and thankfulness; that is until you arrive at your family Thanksgiving. And if your family is anything like mine, you need a stiff drink and a visit to your therapist to refill your meds by the time dessert is served. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family in small doses, but when all 57 of them come together it’s like a full moon on Friday the 13th that causes all of them to get crazy-eyed and act out in a way that is neither normal nor appropriate. You see, I come from a musical family. And by that I mean every single person in my family thinks they can sing better than the person beside them. And therefore every holiday get together turns into an American Idol audition, except with middle aged participants belting out gospel hymns or Broadway tunes. It always starts out innocently enough. When my aunt invariably hops on the piano for a family friendly sing-a-long and starts singing “When the Roll is called up Yonder.” But by the second verse you can’t hear yourself think over the competing roars of vibrato. I remember one Thanksgiving when I was 10 years old I decided to join in on the chorus and started singing harmony with the others, and suddenly my mother looks at me and says, “Get off my part.” It is every man for himself amongst such fierce competition. The first time I brought my husband home for the holidays I watched as my aunt sauntered over to the piano and I broke out into a sweat, knowing exactly what was about to happen. When the voices reached into octaves that only dogs can hear I saw my husband sitting there with his mouth hanging open, staring in disbelief. I just mouthed, “I’m sorry. Don’t leave me.” He hasn’t. Yet.
I know that I am not the only one that feels this way about their family. A friend of mine once told me that he doesn’t even consider it Thanksgiving until at least two rolls have been thrown across the dinner table and someone is crying in the bathroom. “I wouldn’t change it for anything though,” he mused, “it’s free entertainment. Sort of like dinner and a movie, and every year I like to try to guess the ending.” I know exactly what he means, my holiday doesn’t officially kick off until I have been insulted by both my mother (“Did you mean to wear your hair like that?”) and my grandmother (“That baby weight is not going to lose itself you know.”).
My sister doesn’t fair much better at these functions. She is single and in her 30’s which my family translates as desperately alone and needy. And to resolve this they bring pictures of a “nice boy from church with an unfortunate case of acne” as potential suitors to fulfill her void. She keeps a bottle of wine in her car for such emergencies. But this year will be different for her as she has met “the one” and will be bringing him home for the first time to be sacrificed at our family Thanksgiving. I don’t know what I am looking forward to more, my uncle asking him how much money he makes or my mother asking him if he and my sister have consummated their relationship.
But the truth is, no matter how much I complain or get embarrassed by this group of lunatics that are my family, looking back over the decades that we have spent together, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change anything about them. Yes they are loud and wildly inappropriate, but they love each other fiercely and are passionate about a bond that makes a family. And much to my chagrin, they are responsible for the person that I am today and for that I will always have the utmost love and respect for them. And speaking of respect, that reminds me, I need to start practicing my Aretha Franklin solo for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner.
Mandi Gaskin is a mother, wife, and writer. She would like to formally apologize to her family, who has blacklisted her from Thanksgiving this year for making fun of them.