Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!



Well, in my mind it is not truly Thanksgiving until one sings the Rosannadanna Family Thanksgiving Prayer, the anthem for all of us who are accustomed to Thanksgiving being "not normal."

Long before Martha Stewart was a gleam in anyones TV eye, my mother, year after year, struggled desperately to have a Thanksgiving "like TV families have." In her mind, that was what families were supposed to be like. The problem was, she was dealing with a cast of characters for this production that ranged from James Dean to Don Rickles to Granny Clampett.

In other words, it just wasn't going to happen.

All the turkey printed napkins, matching plates, Butterball brand turkeys, and Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Decorating Hints were not going to change the fact that Thanksgiving in my family was going to be a collection of drunks, rednecks, antisocials, and smart-alecks eating a meal together, in a house not big enough to hold them all, and chairs enough not to feed everyone, with football constantly in the background, and a cloud of cigarette smoke in the air. I remember most vividly my constant need to go outside and get fresh air and "get away from all the people," and the constant pressure to "be nice" so as not to be named as the instigator when it all DID hit the fan.

One of my favorite stories was one year when my mom was simply tired of all of us, and wailed, "It's just not FAIR! Why can't we have Thanksgiving like NORMAL people? Why can't just once in my life, I can have a Thanksgiving where I am loved and appreciated for how hard I've tried to make this holiday special?"

My grandmother just looked at her and said, matter-of-factly, "Well, it's because we're NOT NORMAL."

I was about 12 or 13 at the time, and I remember the urge to laugh so hard I had to go outside to do it!

Well, and maybe that in itself is the miracle.

I'm going to be totally up front here. I don't do particularly well with either Thanksgiving OR Christmas. It is very important for me, on both days, to have some degree of "quiet alone time." I simply was not trained to learn how to enjoy large gatherings of people in a setting where the societal pressure is to "experience a day set aside for a particular purpose." I do great in impromptu large gatherings of people, where there are no expectations. In those settings, I can more or less let the joy evolve of its own accord.

But I admit Thanksgiving Day puts pressure on me to feel "thankful, or else," and if it doesn't look like the TV shows, to immediately go, "What's wrong with me? Am I a bad person because I don't enjoy this? Is something wrong with me because my first thoughts are not about my own happiness, but about the pain of those who are separated and alienated from this day of thanks because they are homeless, alone, or in pain?"

Thanksgiving Day has been a constant evolution in me in the past decade. I spent a lot of years simply trying to "be nice" and imploding. Most of the players in my immediate family are now dead, or divorces have estranged them, so that part of my family is now simply "my mom and me," and we have vastly different ideas on How This Day Should Be. It's also interesting that we have Vastly Different Memories of Thanksgivings Past. Hers are of a "day that never was"; mine are of "a day that probably wasn't as bad as it seemed to me at the time."

But what these various pieces of broken stuff have done, is forge a new, and good, role for me for this day.

I've discovered in the past few years, that I can earnestly and wholly fit into the role of Someone's Funny and Charming Thanksgiving Orphan. All the messed up stuff of decades past makes me the perfect flexible house guest for anyone's "Within two standard deviations, but not quite ordinary" Thanksgiving.

Why is that?

1. They're not MY relatives. I don't have to have a dog in the hunt when sides are chosen, and in fact, my indifference sometimes leavens the potential for conflict in others.

2. If my mom accepts the invitation, the presence of a room full of non-relatives gives her a lack of "hooks" on which to hang old patterns of difficult behavior (and my hooks, too, for that matter.)

3. I am generally very helpful and flexible about doing things like helping with the meal prep, bringing drinks and snacks to others, taking the various dogs out, and keeping an eye on various infants/children.

4. I get to hear different family stories, and enjoy the sharing and tag-teaming between their stories and my own. I'm a good storyteller, and people seem to enjoy me contributing in this fashion.

5. The expectation is to only hang around a few hours, and once the meal is over, and the cleanup finished, there's no pressure to hang out any longer than what I can stand to do before my, "Ok, this was all good but I'm ready to go home and be by myself" gene will allow.

I am incredibly grateful for this niche. So incredibly grateful, I barely have words to describe it. It is a spot in time and space where I can live and move and breathe, and both feel the joy of the season in a healthy way and the sense that I am contributing to a better holiday for others. I am grateful to God that I had the guts to try out this role for the first time a few years back, rather than be stuck in a rut of expectations in which I knew I could never live up. I have both the peace of part of this holiday alone, to reflect and pray for those who are alienated and alone, and be grateful at the same time for my own solitude, but not "alienation" or "loneliness," and the fellowship of others. Others whom I care for deeply, and care for me, and my presence fills their need to "do something nice for others" in this season.

It is all so very, VERY good.

May each of you claim your own special blessings on this day, unusual blessings blown your way by Ruach, the holy wind. She blows by all of us and leaves different things in our yards, doesn't she?

4 comments:

Just so you know, I read this post before I went and posted my piece on my blog. So for once you influenced me rather than us just being in synch. Together I think they make a nice pair of posts.

Wonderful capturing of real life...yes, you are a good story teller...stories of the before and in the now...super, really.

Yesterday I didn´t give my usual Grand Gringo Thanksgiving Fiesta...since I´m without a lense in one of my eyes (until April you may recall from previous reported whining) I had a great excuse (which everyone understood without out a codependent word being spoken) NOT TO HAVE IT! YES! All of those, usually 30-40, sometimes loveable, sometimes not so much, faces DIDN´T appear...we, Juan Carlos and Leonardo, were invited to TWO, yes count em, right here in the middle of the remote part of wherever it is that we think we are, THANKSGIVING DINNERS (at very wealthy homes with China, Crystal, Sterling, the works)...so we went to invitation number one which was actually invitation number two but I missed the first invitation in the computer (and they were not pleased we regretted)...anyway, dinner was delicious (they are Americans from Hawaii, have a second home here and cook with a sorta Asian flair...yep, even Thanksgiving with Lotus Root salads and stuffed Turkey with rice and sausages and veggies)...there were lovely guests (each one handpicked like prime veggies and fruits I was told and believed) and it was HEAVEN...just like your Mom, and my Mom, whould have glowed in! At my home, as a child, we had formal Thanksgiving...however, we used linens, lace tablecloths, crystal (from my Mom/Dads Wedding Gifts) and Sterling (same) and always had the same gorgeous meal served on the GOOD CHINA (God forbid you touch it)...we always had Shrimp Cocktails (deveined of course) in stemmed open champagne glasses, followed by Turkey, Dressing, Gravy, Esparagus, Cranberries (although not a favorite at our house), Mashed Potatos and Sweet ones too...deserts were always Pies of various choices and the table was always set for 12 and NEVER was there a overflow (maybe some really smaller kids were set up elsewhere, I don´t remember)...my Mom always had a salad plate at every setting (and a bread/roll plate to the right next to the stemmed Water Goblets) and on the salad plate was a half of a canned pear that had been rolled in Vanilla wafer crumbs with the cherry in the cavity...all resting on one ¨perfect¨ lettuce leaf that held it until consumed...we also had wine glasses and on THESE OCCASSIONS ONLY my sister and I were allowed a part of a glass of Mogan David wine! Fa! La! I loved it (which may mean that, in fact, homosexuality is genetic) and we all dressed up...if my folks were still alive I would imagine it would still be the same because as my sister reproduced (three times) the table leafs would extend the Gala Dinner...but, nothing really every changed, my Mom was a ace with the elegant stuff and a great cook too...thanks for bringing up such beautiful memories for me (and yes, if we were NOT NORMAL, which we weren´t, we PRETENDED to be very well...Betty Crocker set the standard at our house)!

Thanks again! Yesterday was wonderful and today you´ve recreated for me happy memories of days/daze gone by.

Love to you (in your secret chamber of heavenily delights)

Wow, what a wonderful description of TG meals past and present! YUM!

As it turned out, my mom did accept my offer to be an orphan at the house of my friends, and she got dinner on the "good" china, and was very happy about it! It was a wonderful dichotomy of people eating from the "good" china in their blue jeans! LOL

What a marvelous reflection, Maria! Thanks for this.

I have the skills you mention, and sometimes I enjoy exercising them. I just don't want to be someone's "Care Child" on this day. I don't want to the the "adopted orphan du jour." This, I tend to eschew all the invitations.

Very mixed-up reactions for me.

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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