It’s November and we are closing in fast on the feast….the biggest travel weekend of the year…Thanksgiving.
I will skip the portion of the program where I complain that Thanksgiving celebrates the death of the Native American and the appropriation of their land. I instead want to talk about a different kind of tragedy …. Thanksgiving here @ the house.
Tragedy may not be the right word, but I am rolling here so let’s continue.
As a younger version of myself Thanksgiving dinners were usually at my grandmother’s home. In the dining room, in front of the breakfront with china that NEVER got used, and at a table that had seen the birth of a child on it (I was told). I spent lots of time as a little girl in that kitchen with mom-mom, baking biscuits, chopping celery and learning how to make cornbread stuffing that screams heart attack coming but it tastes so good I don’t give a fuck.
I was taught the art of cleaning chitterlings at that table. I was shown how to prepare pig feet and black eyed peas at that table. I still retain those abilities but you’d have to put a gun to my child’s head to get a chitterling in my mouth – even then I may not swallow.
At the Thanksgivings at my grandmother’s house, our small family – well the female portions of it – would all gather and eat and I do not recall a lot of tension. Unless you call my cousins calling be stuck up because I would not eat pig feet tension.
I didn’t though, I was so used to them calling me names that I ignored it and dove for the Cranberry Sauce. The Cranberry Sauce was always the most fascinating part of the meal to me. Mom-mom and I would spend essentially 48 hours straight making all types of food from scratch, and when I came to the Cranberry Sauce…..it came from a can.
That was always strange to me. This was the one time a year that EVERYTHING was made from scratch, yet this ONE item came from a can. The uniqueness of the canned cranberry sauce made it all the more attractive to me.
As my grandmother aged and lost her ability to move through the house those old Thanksgiving traditions got splintered into our separate households.
At some point we began to have those dinners at my childhood home…in the dining room…in front of the breakfront…with the China that we never used.
For a few years my grandmother was mobile enough to put into a car and bring over to our home. There was no tension at those dinners either…unless my cousins calling me stuck up was tension…but it was not because I had cranberry sauce.
Eventually my grandmother died, like we all must.
That first Thanksgiving without her was difficult. It was not the cooking. I was still doing most of it, like I had taken over when mom-mom could no longer stand at the stove. It was still at my childhood home. Without the stabilizing force of my grandmother though…Thanksgiving turned into something that I began to dread.
My mother as the oldest daughter (technically she has a twin sister but Bonnie was always the ‘elder statesman of the family’) tried to step in and fill the Big Momma shoes. Didn’t exactly work out that way though. Nope not @ all.
My mother and her sisters were not capable of doing anything but fight…and that fight took up residence at Thanksgiving Dinner and I hated to see that Thursday in November roll around.
First it would be my mother complaining that she didn’t have time to cook all the food….whaaaaa? It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my mother in the kitchen, and I don’t mean only since her stroke.
Then it would be, we don’t have the room for all those people….whaaaaaa? By the time mom-mom passed we were down to less than 10 regular attendees at dinner. For me it was too many people, but in my world, two is too many people. It was smaller than what we were used to.
Then it would be my mother complaining that no one wanted to bring a dish. I listened with ambivalence as I chopped celery. The day would arrive and the food got out of the oven and onto the counters and I watched with disbelief as my family unit did nothing but complain, tear down, bitch and kvetch about what used to be a pretty cool day in the universe.
They started arriving usually at about 11am and would do little besides bitch and moan that dinner would not be ready until 3 or 4. It was a long day in our household….extra long.
By the time they left at 9 or 10 after taking home 80% of the food, I was more than thankful that Thanksgiving came only once a year. What bothered me the most was the behavior of my Aunt Valerie. She was so disrespectful (in my opinion) and so ungrateful and it pained me to then watch my mother kiss her ass.
Their relationship is very complicated…yet I was always bothered by how the two of them interacted. As I got older I would attempt to defend my mother, only to be met with Valerie’s defense. Apparently my mother wanted the abuse. *shrug*
The last family Thanksgiving happened for us when I was pregnant with Clyde. Well there was one … right before Clyde’s first birthday but I’ve blocked most of that one out…it was the one that proved to me what I always thought this “family unit” was beyond repair.
After those Thanksgivings I refused to show up for dinners. I refused to cook or participate in any way. For about a decade now I’ve been without Thanksgivings.
I don’t miss them really, more trouble than they are worth for the bullshit attached to the day.
After my mother’s stroke I considered rebooting the ‘tradition’. That fell apart quickly, I ended up having to fight to stop my Aunt Valerie from selling my mother’s house from under her – I didn’t have time for turkey.
Since the exorcism of Valerie from our lives…I haven’t thought much about Thanksgiving until now.
This time last year I was newly minted in my relationship with The Man, and my mother and son still had their issues. We had quiet food and football and Elmo and it was fine. The Man was off doing his traditional things and I still didn’t miss Thanksgiving.
When mom wants cornbread and collard greens I make them, we don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to enjoy them.
This year though, I’ve had the itch to reboot again.
What can I say, I am a masochist.
I tell myself that it would be different this year. It would be just the four of us.
I’ve spent the past 15 or so years giving up on the concept of family the way that society taught me I should covet, I’ve spent the past year putting work into a relationship that could very well be the union society has taught me I should crave, and I wonder now if I should try something else that society tells me that I should be doing.
I am only wondering a little though. I’ve actually learned that me attempting to conform to the normals of society is a bad thing…very bad. And right now? I have no craving for cranberry sauce.
I think that will be the indicator that will determine how much of me has healed, when I desire the cranberry sauce again. As a young girl the craving would start right around my birthday at the end of October. I didn’t give in though until we opened the can on Thanksgiving Day.
I was at the market the other day, and looking for something else I saw the cans of cranberry sauce. I picked one up and smiled. It never made it to the cart though. Maybe next year. Perhaps…….