I don’t remember ever being overly excited about Thanksgiving. As an only child from a … let’s say … odd family, I would watch holiday movies with intense interest. Who were these people? How did so many of them live in one space? Who were all these other people showing up with drink, food and gifts? It was an enigma.
Although my father would often attempt to invite random family I didn’t know from Adam who would curse and slave over ham drizzled with coca-cola and brown sugar, there was usually just the three of us, which was fine with me because I got more ham.
Fast forward to 2009 and the birth of my first child. It seemed Pinterest had exploded in my kitchen. I invited everybody I thought would come (and a few I hoped wouldn’t) from both my husband’s family and my own. Preparations were made weeks in advance to be sure I had pretty decorations for the tables and just the right recipes. I bought Action Jackson one of those “my first Thanksgiving” outfits designed to deplete both mommy’s tears and mommy’s wallet. My inner Martha would not rest until my baby had the perfect holiday.
(Now might be a good time to mention I embrace my Native heritage, am the psychedelic sheep of my family, and live in a small mobile home. Baa.)
The big day arrived. Jackson was decked out in his turkey-day outfit; I even brushed his little bald head. The kitchen was laid out with the nicest plastic-ware I could afford, and dressed as though Oprah was making an appearance. I managed to squeeze a long table in-between the kitchen and living room to make room for everyone. There was a Thanksgiving music mix on the iPod, and candles burning throughout the house. I was sure I had thought of everything.
Except the mixed nuts.
You see, among my invited party guests, was my husband’s cousin. She’s the reason Anne Lammott said, “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” A colorful character with an equally colorful past, present and, likely, future, she felt it her sworn duty to invite her friends who had no where else to go. Invite her friends to my baby’s first Thanksgiving. At my house. Where I had toiled creating a clean home and feast that even Gordon Ramsay would have a hard time criticizing.
You see the look, right?
So, of course, I balked. You would’ve too. I half expected a stripper to jump out of the turkey. My husband’s family tried to shame me into “embracing everyone” as their family had always done. I didn’t point out that maybe if she embraced fewer people her life would be less complicated, but somewhere in my Turkey Day Tyraid I may have pointed out a few hundred times what happened to the Natives who invited strangers to their table. Breaking fry bread is serious business.
While (mostly) everyone (mostly) behaved, I felt annoyed the whole day as though there was an itch on my back I couldn’t reach. My mother awkwardly held the baby. Dad’s high-karate cologne was over the top. My mother-in-law was too nice. The place was too hot, too crowded … too much.
For my kids’ sake (so I like to tell myself) I tried a couple of more times. Those holidays were scaled back; less people, fewer Food Network magazine dishes, but I still couldn’t quite find the joy I always longed for on a holiday all about being grateful until I found myself watching A Christmas Story one night.
That’s when things changed.
There’s no Chop Suey Palace in Lexington, but this year I’ve decided a table for four at the Eastern China Buffet will do just fine.
Now if I could just find some LulaRoe leggings with turkeys…