Hope you enjoy this blog originally posted on November 22, 2016.
Every Thanksgiving my husband’s huge, extended clan gathers at their family farm. It’s idyllic for those relishing the outdoors, country cooking, family lore, and slapstick humor. I’m not so into it.
When my husband was growing up, his family’s culture felt smothering. He left to have bolder dreams, and in leaving realized his family’s gifts. Now, returning to their unquestioned, unchanged ways soothes his soul.
These paternal relatives fascinate my children. Unaccustomed to rural Western Carolina accents, they wondered when their cousins moved from England. My son asked his uncle why he always carried a rifle. Our middle daughter raced for pen and paper when said uncle responded, “I might need to shoot something.” My miniature Margaret Mead explained, “I’m collecting observations.” My son found his uncle’s response hilarious.
Only my husband and his sister wandered outside their family’s zip codes. The remaining 100+ family members spread themselves across three churches and two counties. By choice, most spend their time together. I suppose it’s this physical and social sequestering that squashes a reciprocal fascination with our lives.
Once (just once) I offered to supply Thanksgiving breakfast. My mother-in-law asked suspiciously, “What would you have?” “Bagels,” I responded. “No, Honey. Huh-uh. It’s a Christian holiday.” Thus, like those before and after, Thanksgiving began with sausage, bacon, tenderloin, scrambled eggs, and biscuits. She hoped it held us until lunch.
Annually, one great-aunt asks another, “When did Little Grandma die?” (Note: “Little” has no obvious meaning.) After laborious calculations somehow involving a World Expo, the aunts identify the date. When I offered to store their math for the following Thanksgiving, they were puzzled. “This is just what we do,” one said. Interrupting the conversation, one of my kids said, “We don’t have a little Grandma. We have an Elf on the Shelf!” They then detailed their elf’s antics to a quiet audience. Finally, Aunt Ivynell addressed me. “We’re sorry, Sugar. We don’t know your people’s customs.”
My husband’s family is kind, loving, and welcoming. They don’t exclude, they simply map their traditions, habits, and worldviews onto anyone who enters their circle. Truthfully, I’m not sure I return this generosity. This Thanksgiving I’ll try. I’ll remember we’re working our way through this world the best we know how and, hopefully, showing a little gratitude as we do. Wish me luck and happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
Photo Credit: Dave. (November 17, 2007). Vintage Thanksgiving Day Postcard. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/vintagehalloweencollector/2050296209