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Location: Midwest, United States

I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanks, Thanksgiving!

Damned if I didn't have a good Thanksgiving after all. Maybe all you need to do to improve an ambivalent family dynamic is complain about it at length on the world wide web? Probably not, but it sort of feels like it. I left for my aunt's house feeling a little guilty for writing about my dread of Thanksgiving, and then found that the most potentially dreadful aspects of it turned out pretty cool.

It's hard to even describe how things were different, and better. Everyone seemed more relaxed, more themselves. Both my aunts are lovely, good hearted people, and like most people in my family, they also have a bit of salt in them. But in recent years, there's been an emphasis on positivity at all cost. Maybe because our family has weathered so much loss, they feel a need to keep their eyes on what's happy and harmless. But that kind of positive focus to the exclusion of what is real doesn't seem to actually make things brighter, just more strained. It feels like my beloved aunts aren't being themselves, and I feel like I can't fully be myself. A strenuous focus on pure positivity also kills anything resembling true humor. And easy, plentiful laughter, sometimes of a rather inappropriate nature, has always been one of my favorite aspects of my family.

This Thanksgiving everything seemed more relaxed, more real. I can't pinpoint what might account for that. Maybe enough time has passed that we're all beyond the deep grieving stage for our lost loved ones, that Aunt Gee is coming to see how lucky she is that her terrible husband left her, that it's seeming less purely wrong that my dad isn't part of the holiday anymore. Maybe the fact that my other aunt's husband was in Iowa with his sister's family made both my aunts less worried about pleasing a hard-to-please dude and enabled them to loosen up a bit. Whatever the reason, it was wonderful to enjoy the holiday, to have some real conversations with people I love and with whom I share a precious history, to spend hours on end playing the obscure German card game that no one outside my family seems to know about.

Although the carnival of artificial smells was definitely in effect, I noticed there was only one air-freshener tower machine in the common area (as opposed to three last year). The small army of televisions was also relatively quiet this year – there was usually only one on at a given time, and none on during the holiday feast. And most of the time a TV was on, it was playing one of the old home movies that my cousin dug out of a closet, which we haven’t watched in years, and which brought the presence of my departed grandma, grandpa, and aunt into the mix. Even though there were moments when the images onscreen made us all momentarily sad, it was nice to watch. It reminded us how goofy, slothful, and tight we have always been as a clan. This was certainly the most slothful and the most fun Thanksgiving we’ve had in a long time, and to me it felt tighter and more right than it has in years. So I think we’re on the right track.


Blogger Lucky Star said...

Just caught up on your last few posts, and now I have so much to say that I can't think of anything!

I'm so glad you had a Thanksgiving to be thankful for.

The Grand Ole Opry sounds marvelous!! ...and that hotel sounds like a nightmare. :)

8:45 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Cool. I'm glad your Thanksgiving turned out good after all. It can be very hard to recapture that old dynamic after death in the family. I guess you never do recapture it -- you generally have to find a way to re-work it, and sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn't. Glad your family is back on track!

2:13 PM  
Blogger jen said...

sounds lovely. tighter and more real...a perfect statement.

6:18 PM  
Anonymous sweatpantsmom said...

Glad to hear you had a good Thanksgiving. I know that sometimes the situations I'm dreading the most turn out to be not so bad after all. (With the exception of say, the mall three days before Christmas.)

4:40 PM  
Blogger Esereth said...

You capture your family together so well! Both the negative version and the newer happier version.

What is the German card game?

9:48 AM  
Blogger E. said...

Sheepshead. Ever heard of it? It's a trick-taking game, and I'm told it's similar to Euchre, though I've never played Euchre.

The bizarre (and to me, cool) thing about it is that the cards have a different power hierarchy than most card games. Queens beat everything else, then (in descending order of power) it goes Jacks, Aces, tens, then Kings. Cool, but very confusing for folks who didn't grow up with the game.

10:01 AM  

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