November 21, 2006

Ghosts of Thanksgivings Past: Mom Commands a Tradition That Didn't Stick

My first marriage was to a hometown boy. When you marry a hometown boy, there's the potential for making yourself crazy trying to balance holidays. I think it might be a little easier when you don't have families living nearby. You see, now that my current husband (the one that stuck) and I live nowhere near family, nobody expects us for any holiday.

My family is pretty cool about not spending holidays with them because my own father rebelled against everyone in the early part of his and my mother's marriage and proclaimed that they would be spending holidays in their own home--not busting their butts going from family to family. He was pretty much talking about Christmas, but it applied to all holidays.

The problem was I didn't mind going from house to house because my first husband (further known now as Ex) and I never had children and the holidays were pretty boring with just the two of us. I wanted to spend the holidays with everyone, and I didn't want to choose. Christmas worked itself out pretty easily because each family had different times of the holiday that were the most important, and those times didn't conflict. My parents enjoyed Christmas Eve as a family, and Ex's family liked for us to all gather Christmas night, and then on New Year's Eve when all the extended family came to visit.

Thanksgiving was a different story. Since the whole day is about eating, it was always an uncomfortable one by the time it was all done, too. Thanksgiving wasn't a major holiday with my family, and it was usually just my parents and brother with an occasional bachelor co-worker of my dad's. When my brother moved to the city and got a McJob, he didn't come home for Thanksgiving, so it become an even smaller event.

Ex's family came to just rely on Ex and me to show up for a huge meal, and maybe other family members would show up for pie later on.

It seemed sad to not show up to both tiny Thanksgiving dinners with our respective parents. We were often the only guest they had.

After about 5 years of that, my parents came up with the big idea that Ex and I should host Thanksgiving at our house and invite both sets of parents. Logistically it was a great idea, but seriously, could both moms give up the power of the kitchen? What's your guess? Anyone? Anyone?

I was a little nervous because I'd never cooked a turkey before, but PEOPLE, IT'S NOT THAT HARD! On television "they" always make it seem challenging. So, the turkey was easy. Put it in the oven and wait many hours.

Now, how challenging do you think it would be to put together the rest of the meal for six people? Again, not as hard as some people would make it out to be. You know, I read entertaining books and magazines--this was during my Martha-wannabe phase--and I learned the key was really in the prep work. So, essentially, when the moms arrived, there was nothing to do because I had it under control!

But then here came The Moms, invading my kitchen, taking over, treating me like I didn't know what I was doing. From the time I was in middle school, I made dinner every night so it would be ready when my parents came home from work. Did my mom think she'd trained me so poorly? And my mother-in-law, well, she was the type of woman who would slave over the stove for hours for who-knows-what-reason while I could prepare the same meal in 30 minutes tops. So, did I deserve their harassment when they came into MY kitchen and started messing with my meal? The answer is NO!

And my dad only shook his head and told me it would be okay when I begged him to call off The Moms.

How bad was it really? Here's the straw: my mother-in-law brought her potato masher because she thought I didn't have one. And how right she was! We use a mixer in my family. Even better, since I was in my era of Martha, I had a potato ricer. And you know my mother-in-law, with her beehive hairdo, had no idea what a potato ricer could do for your life. They would have been beautiful mashed potatoes. Sigh.

And isn't that how many family functions end up in brawls? Fighting over how to make the damned mashed potatoes?

Only, it wasn't worth selling my gracious soul to the devil to get sucked into that war, so I bit my tongue. I bit my tongue over everything that day. (Had we not been a "dry" family, I would have turned to the wine to comfort.) So, I bit my tongue and let The Moms take over the Thanksgiving I had been coerced into hosting.

After the meal, I excused myself and went upstairs to collapse from the emotional exhaustion.

The Parents raved about what a wonderful holiday it had been.

Good for them.

I graduated college the following year and moved to another state. That tradition stopped at the stateline.

And that reminds me of the best non-traditional Thanksgiving ritual I thought my family might start, but that didn't work out either...

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