The holidays are traditionally filled with family and close friends, gathering to celebrate another year of survival – mostly from one another. Of course, I jest (or do I?). For many years we celebrated Thanksgiving at home, with Mom working all day to make a great meal, then everyone getting up and leaving the table (and the mess) for her to “take care of”. Of course this was the life of a Mom back when I was a kid. Dad’s worked all week to buy stuff, and Moms worked twice as hard to make it all work. Of course it took me a while to realize the huge contribution Mom made to my life, the recognition of which only came after I had to fend for myself.
Once my Sister started her family, Thanksgiving moved to her house, giving her the “opportunity” to take care of everything. Luckily for her, this was after the women’s liberation movement had started, so it was expected that the men at least help out with the clean up – at least the men that raised families at that time – the older ones were still set in their “belch and couch” ways. When I started my family, rather than travel for Thanksgiving, I started hosting my own – open to any family that wished to join, and any friends who had nowhere special to go. The Ex would do the cooking, and I would do the clean up, sharing the load so’s to speak.
But shortly after the turn of the century came a holiday I refer to as the Thanksgiving Day Massacre. No, I’m not referring to Arlo Guthrie’s holiday of the same name (though Alice’s Restaurant is a Thanksgiving tradition of mine – who doesn’t love “8×10 color glossies”), but something far worse.
On this particular holiday, my family was acting like, well, my family. Dad had passed years before, and Mom would rotate Thanksgiving and Christmas between me and my Sister. Luckily for her, she was at my sister’s that year – which saved embarrassment for both of us. To this day I don’t know WHAT crawled up my Ex’s butt, but when dinner was about to be served, she informed my youngest daughter that she “was not invited” to join us, or as she put it “You’re not eating MY food”.
Well, this came as a surprise to all of us – well, all except the Ex, who had obviously been planning this for a while. And when I went to intervene, she stated, in no uncertain terms, “I bought the food, I cooked the food, and she’s not invited”. It seems that she had an issue with daughter’s attitude and, rather than broach the subject directly, she decided to pull what I call a “dick move”.
Well, sending a kid to bed without supper is one thing, but waiting to the last minute, on Thanksgiving Day, to pull this kind of crap with the intention of inflicting emotional pain on a child is one thing that I just can’t abide by. So, I told my daughter to grab her coat and we’d go get dinner “elsewhere”. Of course it was far too late to find anything resembling a Thanksgiving meal anywhere else – you need reservations for that, and we were sitting down late in the afternoon to boot. I don’t really remember what we did, but we did it together – she didn’t have to do it alone.
And every year after that I personally hosted Thanksgiving – I bought the food, cooked the food and cleaned up after. If the Ex wanted to join us, she needed to help – I made this clear up front, not “at the last minute”. Oh, she tried to pull this with everything she controlled after that (“I pay for the cable, you can’t watch tv”), and I just kept taking over ownership. And every year, I made Thanksgiving dinner for friends and family, because no one should feel “left out” on Thanksgiving.
And so it went until 2014, when the kids decided that it was too much trouble to travel up to my place. Now the youngest daughter owns a home and has her own Thanksgiving, while the oldest travels to my nieces for hers. And there’s nothing wrong with that – the only reason I made it MY holiday was to ensure they had a place to go. Now it’s just me, the boys, and anyone else that finds themselves with “nowhere special to go”. And, to be honest, I like the serenity of it all – it beats the hell out of what I had before…