Happy Thanksgiving, A Little Late

Hey, Happy Thanksgiving Harry.

Growing up, the most hallowed football/tryptophan day of the year was never without a gobble—I MEAN SQUABBLE. But what good holiday is, really?

Thanksgiving to me always meant traveling. Once my older brother Bryan got his driver’s license, he, my younger brother Bret and I moved around from house to house like the BoxCar Children, blindly dispensing an endless slew of hugs and kisses to anyone in our path. Like any good divorced children, we knew that no amount of time spent with either parental camp would be enough on the holiday, and every goodbye was met with awkward sentimentality and longing.

“Why can’t you just stay LONGER? You ALWAYS see THEM. I don’t understand why you have to go.”
“Um, uh, well, they said there’d be strawberry pie… not tryna miss that… also: um?”
^^^Classic conversation had while fumbling to put on gloves/push little brother out door.

What we learned was that timing was crucial; you needed to be able to say you had stayed as long as you could, even if it always felt like you were running out the door. And the actual wrap-up needed to happen about a half hour before you really needed to leave—without proper padding there was no way you were getting out of there. You could always make up for it on the road, and it seemed like that was our only place of solace. Bobbing and weaving through the snowy back country roads in Bryan’s white Hyundai Accent was often a life-threatening experience, but one that seemed the most okay. If we disappointed everyone else, at least we had each other.

This year is the first holiday season I’ll spend away from my entire family who all live within 40 minutes of one another. A trying thing for any parent, I’m sure, my parents were particularly worried that I would somehow perish from the earth without them on this November 25. I couldn’t help feeling a twinge of excitement.

And much to my delight, it was a surprisingly calm day. I got in the thrill of travel by going up to a coworker’s house, and the satisfaction of hosting by having my own mini-dinner. Surrounded by new friends, devoid of overt sentimentality, the day seemed a success.

I called Bryan later that night to wish him a happy birthday (it’s true) and see how the day went.

“Actually it was like, really normal. Nobody hassled us, we didn’t really have to rush, it wasn’t awkward to say goodbye, I dunno, it was actually kind of nice.”
“Wait—what?”

And later still, talking to my dad in the backseat of his car with my step-mom at the wheel:
“Yeah we’re just driving Nunnie home—actually Mum is driving!”
“Wait—what?? But she NEVER…”
“I know we just thought it would be fun!”

Excuse me, fun? Fun you say? Now I’m fairly familiar with the feeling of having the rug pulled out from under you, but this seemed a little far. Somehow, in my absence, my entire family managed to  come together and rally for one great holiday. I watched as the contents of my wildest dreams scattered all over my kitchen.

“Yeah we definitely miss you a lot,” generic somber toned family member would say. “But it was a really nice day!”

I guess sometimes that’s what a group of traditionally self-centered masochists people need—some kind of a scape goat. Something to pull together for and concentrate their efforts on, instead of just how much they hate each other. And if it takes me moving all the way across the country to do it, I guess I’ll take my quiet night, and remember what it means to be thankful to have any family at all, in peace.

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