Surviving Thanksgiving

There’s just too much time for sober reflection to go the way of sloppy sophistry.

November 26, 2019
Evil Brother David

Lin, How do you survive ThanksgivIng with your relatives?


Some of us will gather with relatives we rarely see because our lives have grown complicated. Because of that absence, we may not be able to appreciate the festering socio-political climate of the day. For example if you have a brother who enjoys putting his index fingers to his thumbs and impersonating the President, you have to know your audience. Especially if your brother doesn’t really care who the audience is.

Some of us gather with relatives we see every weekend because they live across the street. Familiarity does not breed contempt, it breeds more of an escalating irritation. Brothers and sisters don’t have to guess where the conversational powder kegs are. They filled the kegs. They just need a fuse. And when family arrives, they arrive early. In my experience, the early arrival hastens the hospitality of a strong drink or a glass of wine.

A couple of hours before dinner. A couple hours at the dinner table. There’s just too much time for sober reflection to go the way of sloppy sophistry. Outrageous opinions are not dampened by alcohol.

As an 18 year old I was traumatized by my first Thanksgiving where I was legally eligible to participate in the cocktail hour and by hour I mean all afternoon. As a self-respecting college freshman I felt assured that this older generation had no idea how we partied on campus. I was not adequately prepared for the dedicated stamina of the Greatest Generation and by the time dinner was ready I was locked. One aunt had already dissolved in tears as was her holiday prerogative. Another relative had managed to turn a card game into a silence that bristled with the tension of people who did not like to lose. I might have softened the mood with a jest, but halfway thru the game, the pitchers of cocktails had rendered me unable to string syllables together. All in all it was a pretty good time. It was a Thanksgiving that had all the makings of a Tennessee Williams play set in New England.

How do we navigate the lumpy gravy of a familial feast? One word. Football. It is the function of football to fill the empty spaces. How many times have you watched a football game on Thanksgiving that meant absolutely nothing to you? Every time. Because it’s the path of least resistance. Even if you don’t know a 3 point kick from a field goal, you can share your expertise. If the home team is running the ball and losing, you say, "they gotta throw the ball." And if they’re throwing the ball and losing, you say, "they got start running the ball. And if it’s just a concussive jumble, you say, "What the hell are they doing out there?"

How do you survive Thanksgiving?

Someone will drink too much. Someone will eat too much and someone will talk too much. Just make sure that the person that does all three is not you. It is a rite of passage to joke about time we spend with our extended families over the holidays. What we remember is not so much what kind of time we had, we remember small things. How my grandparents china chimed when someone walked thru the dining room. How mom would always put out a relish tray with those big green olives and Aunt Clara’s homemade sweet pickles. And how all those voices that filled a dining room years ago never seem to fade.


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