BobLee’s Official Thanksgiving Family Gathering Advice
I don’t think I’ve ever done this column topic before. This column topic is becoming a tradition in the media along with that old favorite – Clueless TV info babe at the airport interviewing holiday weekend travelers. I have not done that one either.
Avoiding “fireworks” at Thanksgiving has always been a touchy subject. One that most families can relate to whether they have ever had actual MAYHEM or not. I never have had such issues either pre-Blondie or the past 33 with Blondie years.
I am an only child so our immediate family Thanksgivings were basically Sunday dinner on Thursday with turkey et al… and in “the dining room” rather than kitchen table (aka breakfast table).
Our extended family was large, local and highly matriarchal. My grandmother had a large post-bellum home and it was the gathering place every Christmas with 20-25 aunts, uncles, cousins assembling. Attendance was not optional but I don’t recall it being contentious.
There was no “over the river and thru the woods” involved as 90% of the extended family lived with 25 miles. Because we were always seeing one another thru the year, holiday gatherings were never “summit meetings” to air heated opinions be they sports, politics, or gossip about local society goings-on.
“Back then” divorce was highly uncommon unless one was Mickey Rooney, Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor or some guy named Tommy Manneville (??). None of whom were related to me. So we weren’t having “strangers” coming/going at these gatherings.
We had “characters” among the aunts, uncles, cousins for sure. Looking back… more eccentric characters than I realized at the time. Actually probably about average for families of that size.
Yes, there was “the adult table” and, at one point, TWO “childrens’ tables. A lot of the cousins were within 3-4 years of the same age so ascension to the “grown-ups table” could have been a log-jam. I don’t recall how that was resolved as we “came of age”.
The whole family were “yellow dog Democrats” so definitely no political squabbling. Any comparison to “political squabbles” then compared to the past 10-12 years… or to current day is as irrelevant as irrelevant can be.
The KABOOM flashpoint in 2017 is within 10 seconds of the moment the word “Trump” in said out loud.
For a mixed ABC / UNC family (who read BLS) the word “TGU” might ignite the fuse.
There were not even college or pro sports rivalries in our family. I have no clue who my uncles “pulled for” if anyone. Eastern NC had no pro sports teams in the region. The Redskins were woeful and the Washington Senators were woefullier. Atlanta was still smoldering from General Sherman’s visit.
“Race” was becoming more and more “an issue”. I don’t recall my extended family being particularly enlightened on that subject. My grandmother’s maid – Ophelia – was “colored” and a family staple for 20+ years. Ophelia “knew her place”.
If you read the book or saw the movie – The Help – that was “how it was”…. In the semi-rural small-town South in the mid 20th century.
To put that in time perspective… our town had many more “colored people” than it did colored TVs. Over a half century later, my hometown now has an all-black city government – mayor and city council. THAT transition is a fascinating study in societal evolution which I will explore in depth in an upcoming column.
Moving right along… in the past 34 years – The Blondie Era – saw time and logistics become an issue. My family was Eastern NC and hers was Southeast Missouri and we did not live in either region for the first 10-12 years. Ergo, there WAS an “over the river / thru the woods” aspect for the first 6-8 years. In that case you chose to “go back” for either Thanksgiving or Christmas… not both.
Blondie’s brothers also left Cape Girardeau for various “big cities” and began their families and their traditions. I only recall 3-4 times we all gathered on Cammelia Drive… and none of those resulted in altercations of any kind.
The predominate political persuasion did a 180 from my youth’s with only one dissenter among the 15+ and she recognized she was outnumbered and demurred.
It was a total “Cardinals Family” but with on-going concerns about the intelligence of whoever the manager was at any given time.
Once “we” – Blondie, Kid and I – began our own holiday traditions, we went very “traditional” again with nary a harsh table chatter much less verbal sparring.
The annual “issue” was Blondie freaking out over the myriad details of preparing Thanksgiving dinner. We have now solved that by buying the basics pre-cooked from Honey-Baked Ham and/or Whole Foods. A solution I strongly recommend.
Those traditional traditions continue these days. Blondie’s one brother – Hunter – who lives in Raleigh, joins us each season. Hunter is rougher on the current Cardinals’ manager than I am but not demonstrably so.
Now, of course, we share “Kid” with Danny’s family in Indianapolis. That has gone very smoothly so far… but the “any week now” arrival of “the twins” – Ruthie and Scout – could affect that in years to come. I don’t anticipate “issues” but this grandparents thing is uncharted waters for us.
I’ve never had a Holiday Armageddon to deal with. I can only imagine how upsetting it can be… especially “these days”.
If I had to “deal with” an opinionated jackass in such a situation I’m not sure how I would handle it. I would certainly never provoke a political discussion. Basically, I don’t feel compelled to voice my opinions in such a setting. Here on this website ABSOLUTELY … but never in a social setting. And I certainly don’t care to endure dissenting POVs.
I assume attendees in such combustible settings are all aware who the likely instigators could be. Unless there are “first-timers” in attendance … your sister’s 3rd future ex-husband, etc.
… or, of course, the “gone away to college kid” who returns all full of his/her self and determined to piss in mamma / grandmama’s holiday punch bowl.
I would hope there would be at least one respected individual among the attendees to nip it in the bud. OK, that’s ENOUGH!
Anyone who would bring up … Charlie Rose running around nekkid? among a group of people eating should be taken out back immediately… and dealt with.
Sure, I know individuals who might feel compelled to share their provocative opinions in inappropriate settings. I have never had the unpleasant occasion to dine with those individuals at a family holiday. Hopefully I never will.
The #1 problem I see in Holiday Family Feuds is the simple fact that in Battleground America 2017… EVERYTHING is political.
What conversational topic these days is NOT one careless inflection or phrase from going NUCLEAR?
The only advice I can offer those of you who dread these family gatherings is to suggest to the host that she replace the good silver with plastic sporks.
That said… prison inmates can turn a toothbrush into a “shiv” dagger. If your sister’s latest “future ex-husband” just completed a stretch at a Graybar Hilton, even the sporks may not solve your problem…