Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving: Hunker Down and Get Through It

I know this is a blog focusing on family, and in the past, I've had a tendency to focus on the potential of family more than the realities. But this holiday, I've got a bad case of the humbugs.

And, frankly, I'm just hunkering down to get through this hap-happiest time of the year. I do harbor hopes my attitude will improve before Christmas, but it's just too late for Thanksgiving.

The thing is, all is not well in Extended Family Land and the holidays are just forcing togetherness at a time when we'd be better off left alone. The truth is, the thought of the whole thing makes me queasy.

I'm not alone, as I recently discovered during a conversation with my mother.

Just last night, I learned my sister's new boyfriend would be joining us. Every year, there's a different stranger sitting beside my sister at the Thanksgiving table. At a time in our lives when we barely see each other, it's disconcerting to navigate dinner conversation with a stranger. To me, it just adds to the strain. I never brought boyfriends to holiday dinners and can't understand why she feels the need. Sure, he might become a member of the family one day - but, frankly, we've thought that about every guy she's brought to holiday dinners and let's just say the odds are against him.

My mother contends it's because my sister - who is the baby of the family - is the only one not married and that she has a right to bring any friend she wants to the family meal. And since it's my mother's house, what can I say, except the same was not true about my friends. "This is family-time," I was told very sternly. "Haven't they go their own family?"

But I digress. The point is, when I said the boyfriend made me anxious, my mother informed me she gets anxious having all of us to dinner. My father and she agreed that it'd be a 'successful' holiday if we could all get through it without fighting.

Which made me wonder, "Then why are we bothering?"

I mean, really. No one's looking forward to it. Everyone sees it as something to survive. Why bother? Why not just cancel Thanksgiving? Christmas will come soon enough as it is, and I know I'm not getting out of that one.

I realize this is not the holiday tripe I'm supposed to think. And it definitely doesn't reflect a positive mental attitude. But one does wonder: Are we just all in this because of our misguided ideas about family and it's importance? If we only see each other because we 'have to,' because it's a holiday, then is family really important? Or are we just playing at family?

It'd be nice if the solution were as easy as, "Just don't go." But the truth is, doing that would generate all this weird angst around the holiday table that would have ramifications through my mother's birthday and Christmas. It's easier to just endure.

One thing is clear: I don't want my own family - my husband and child - to be this way years from now. We've got to redefine the day for ourselves - cut loose somehow from the situations that make us grimace with anxiety and feel we're 'enduring' the holiday. Wouldn't it be wonderful if, some Thanksgiving in the future, we actually felt glad and grateful for a day to be together?

But not this year. So, until that fabled time comes when we're actually thankful to spend time with family, check out Mahalo's "How to Survive Thanksgiving Dinner with Your Family." You might also enjoy my post on Toxic Relatives from last November.

See you on the other end of the turkey!


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