The Irony of Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving — always one of the more ironic times of year.

About 10 days before the actual holiday, TV pundits and bloggers begin echoing the all-too-familiar jokes about hating our families, the age-old adage of the annoying uncle who talks about politics, and Thanksgiving table fights a la Jerry Springer. 

Around the same time, we begin thinking about Thanksgiving, how it went last year, and about all the work that goes into it. But we don’t do anything. We wait until two or three days before 16 people will be yelling, screaming, and running through our homes to start fretting and frantically checking off items on our to-do lists.

Let me be clear — most of my life, I’ve merely observed my mother and grandmother writing down new recipes, going back and forth to the grocery store, and adding family taxi to their already full job description.

As the child, the teen, the college kid, my observance was more of a bystander, a helper, participant.

I made the easy recipes, watched football on the couch with my grandfather, and stood next to the appetizer trays full of sweet pickles and black olives and veggies.

During those formative years, I observed the weighted effort — not only on behalf of those who cooked the meals, cleaned the house, and made the trip — but the effort to maintain sanity, to talk shit when in a safe place, to get through the day with as little personal anguish as possible before retreating later in the evening.

My hunch is that the local grocery store commercials are a total farce, not only for my family but for most families across the country. The irony is that we must get together, we have to get together, this is what Thanksgiving means. But are we really “feeling” it?

Most people I know dread going to their parents’ or grandparents’ or mother-in-law’s house to sit around and mingle with people that they voluntarily and deliberately avoid the rest of the year.

It’s a forced trip, forced smiles and agreement and acceptance.

Excuse me for being realistic — but never have I been at a Thanksgiving table where everyone is beaming at each other like it’s the best moment of all time.

And with this comes my tale of what’s to come for Thanksgiving 2014 for Kat Galaxy. I am now 26 years old, and I have spent the last 25 straight years with my mother and family on this holiday.

And very quickly, in this time, I sense that my role, not only from a holiday standpoint, but as a woman and a family member in general, is changing.

This year, I will not be spending the entire day with my mother’s side of the family. I might not see them at all.

Yes indeed, I have spent Thanksgiving with them for the last quarter of a century — but this year will be different.

My husband and I have decided that if we feel like it, we may stop by his father’s house and/or my mother’s house for pie and dessert. But if we don’t feel like it? We won’t.

This year has been different for my husband and I in terms of familial relations. As we approach our 5th wedding anniversary on December 19th, we are increasingly yearning to pull back from what others want and finally start making a life of our own.

You may remember this past Easter when the hubs and I decided to go to the New York Yankees game instead of the family dinner. That was a big, fat shock to my mother, stepfather, and grandparents. But we did it anyway, and we are proud of our decision, because we aren’t too focused on making ourselves uncomfortable for others anymore.

It’s a bigger issue than Thanksgiving, or any holiday for that matter, and the irony of these holidays extends further into the irony of life. My husband and I are both people pleasers, the kind of individuals that will put our own needs and comfort behind everyone else’s. And that gets old, and it builds resentment, and it makes us look like we are just waiting for the next phone call or email from our family to jump on board and make ourselves useful.

Being the stand-in paper doll is no longer something we want to do. 

The relationship I have with my parents, and likewise with his, has always been difficult. We have been good little soldiers for a very long time, but this year, we made the decision to go ahead and stay home and create our 1st annual, very own Galaxy Thanksgiving.

What does this mean for us?

  • No pressure to attend and be anxious
  • No pressure to do things someone else’s way
  • Our own menu, our own cocktails, in the comfort of our own home
  • No disappointment of another empty family gathering where everyone seems to be merely tolerating each other

The change is difficult, mainly because of repetition and patterns. I’m sure it will be talked about, and documented (I no longer care).

But it is not difficult in the sense that I am tired of being pulled around on a string by my family, only to be let go when I am not needed. And same with hubs. The exact same thing.

I found myself talking on the phone to my cousin yesterday evening, a young woman just a year younger than me who resides about 1000 miles north of here. She’s coming to visit solo for Thanksgiving, to help with the grandparents, and we decided she would stay over here his evening, as her flight comes in late.

After the call, my own list started running through my head. I am thrilled to have her, but I need to actually clean! There needs to be food in the house! An air mattress! Coffee! What will we make for Thanksgiving morning breakfast?

And so I began fashioning the house in a way that it did not look 12 hours ago — new pillows, a new throw, towels, delightful hand soaps, a wreath I will probably only have up for a few more days before the Christmas one comes out.

We all try our best to be as clean and pure and beautiful as we can be on holidays like this. The disappointment has always been in the idealistic idea I have of these holidays — that we will smile, hug, love, and be at peace.

It usually doesn’t work that way, and that is why I am making empowered decisions to try to change that — not to have the perfect holiday season, but to make it more of my own, and more of what I always wanted.

My therapist advised me to make what I can’t have from my family. That is what I’m trying to do. And the purchasing of all of those household items? It cheers me up a bit, too.

And I’ve thought about how I’ll handle the situation with my cousin. I’m sure she’ll be wondering why I am either sans dinner or only making an appearance. I’ve thought quite a few times about what I will say, how I will say it, and what will be passed back to 90% of the rest of the family that lives up north.

I’m learning something — I don’t need to think that hard about what I’m going to say. It’s been too long that I have been worrying about how to craft my words and my actions to tread the path of least resistance and acceptance.

This is my life, and I’m tired of the irony. I’m tired of my experience, my dreams, hopes, wishes, and fears being someone else’s.

The irony of Thanksgiving is that we are always trying to please someone else. We need to also Give Thanks about who we are and take comfort in knowing that we are aware of what we need and that we are committed to making that happen.

Let me end by saying I am indeed Thankful for all of you who are fans of Kat Galaxy Blog. Enjoy your holiday in whatever way you choose to celebrate.

-KAT

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