"Shaddup, smile and enjoy the turkey!"
...I say this because for some of us, that's what our memories of this holiday -- any holiday -- are: something to be got through. Here at Roseholme and with Tam as co-conspirator, I have largely reclaimed the day, with traditions like turducken, bacon-based gravy and taking a little time out to remember what we are thankful for (regular paychecks, cats, readers and friends, among others). It's a good day.
But in honor of years upon years of polite silence and gentle -- albeit forced -- smiles, here are The Rules Of My Family's Thanksgiving Dinner (etc.):
1. No matter what you brought, it was a disappointment and/or someone can't eat it or dislikes it. This works like mortar and pestle with:
2. Rejecting the food is rejecting the person and you are bad and wrong to do so, no matter how politely you demur.
1 and 2 concatenate ratchetwise rather than algebraically: When $RELATIVE turns their nose up at the dressing you spent great time and effort on and made both with and without oysters,* there will be raised eyebrows and treacly sympathy that your cookery has never been very good; when you pass up the candied/mashed/French fried yams, you who have never eaten yams other than a horrifying taste every year to recall that the taste, texture and combination of seasonings used on them are all repugnant to your palate, why, you're a horrible person, especially after $RELATIVE_A, $RELATIVE_B and $RELATIVE_C all spent hours over their particular preparations of the dire root. Don't you love any $RELATIVE?
3. After the meal, $THE_MEN will sit and hoot at sporting events on the television, while $THE_WOMEN are required to retreat to a world of table-clearing, dish-washing, changing poopy diapers, and rendering permissive babysitting and minor first-aid† to $THE_CHILDREN. No member of any of the three groups -- or worse, any combination thereof -- should ever, ever take a half hour out from the fray to read a book and recharge. That's just utterly antisocial, uncaring and probably evidence of unAmericanism. (And this in a family of readers. I don't understand it.)
4. No matter what, someone will leave in tears ($THE_WOMEN and $THE_CHILDREN) or cursing ($THE_MEN). These are firm lines and should any of the first two groups say as much as "drat" or "shit-oh-dear," there will be tsk-tsking at the very least. $THE_MEN, of course, do not cry; they just turn the television up louder.
5. No matter what you wore, it was wrong, either too casual, too formal, or just plain weird. Family Thanksgivings at their peak looked like a particularly unimaginative masquerade, and no one approved of anyone else's choice.
Earlier this morning, I made three pieces of toast and dropped one. I called it Very Bad Names and Tam told me to not stress out. She doesn't entirely realize how very much less stressed I am, compared to the past.
I'm thankful for Thanksgiving at home, in my house, eating things Tam and I both like. I believe this is the seventh one, and one of the few where I won't have to scurry off to Family Thankspurgatory a day or two later; this year, they're having it on my work day and a considerable distance away. Yeah, y'all have fun with that, mmmkay?
Incidentally, Tam loathes yams, too.
* Surely mine is not the only family that makes oyster dressing? It's good. Haven't had it in years; you see, mine was never really up to par in the serving line....
† Temporary and moderately indulgent child-overseer is the best of these jobs, if you ask me. Too many members of the distaff subset of $RELATIVE pick fights over the dishes, which is then a good excuse to dash from the room weeping and get some time alone. Turns out you're still in dutch if they catch you reading, though. Um, so I hear.
8 months ago