(This is a long and rambling one. Sorry.)
So, Thanksgiving. Well, frankly… it kind of sucked.
Originally, Fanless and I had discussed going to Orlando to take advantage of some free Universal Studios passes we won earlier this year. But when my mom announced that she would be here in October for her knee surgery, my sister and I calculated that her recovery time meant she would be here for Thanksgiving. That pretty much canceled out the road trip idea.
My sister and I spoke a few times trying to figure out where and when to celebrate (her house, my house, a restaurant, lunch, dinner…?). Since we didn’t really know what my mom’s post-surgical recovery would be like, everything was pretty much hypothetical until closer to the actual date. Then about two weeks prior to Thanksgiving, Fanless got an email from Jungle Island promoting their Thanksgiving day special. For $16, you could enjoy park admission and an all-you-can-eat holiday buffet. It sounded like a great idea to me and when I told my sister and mom about it, they were onboard with the plan. Things were finally taking shape for what seemed like a potentially fun, unique, family outing. But just a few days later, I received an email from my sister telling me that my niece and her husband didn’t want to go out, and that Thanksgiving would be at their place – 2PM sharp – and she would let me know what I needed to bring.
Not only had the plans completely changed, no one even bothered to ask what I thought or what I wanted to do. No, instead I was TOLD what to do and where to be. I told Fanless that I felt like a 10-year-old being forced to sit at the kids’ table. Honestly, at this point I was pretty annoyed. I even considered telling them we had already purchased our passes to Jungle Island. But… my mom is here. And I couldn’t not spend the holiday with my mom.
So come Thanksgiving day I got ready and headed over to my niece’s house by myself (Fanless was sick so he took a dose of DayQuil and stayed home napping). The attendees ended up being me, mom, my sister and her fiancé, my niece and her husband, his parents, aunt, uncle and cousin. It was so incredibly boring. We didn’t even get to sit together for supper because their apartment is so small. A few people sat at the dining table in the kitchen, another two at a little side table in the living room, my niece sat on a bar stool in the entry between the kitchen and living room, and I sat on the couch. There was no lively conversation, no football on the TV, no little kids running around. Heck, there wasn’t even a turkey! The only good thing at the table was the honey baked ham my niece made. Almost everything else was prepackaged and tasted like it. The mashed potatoes, though homemade, were really bland and had no gravy (when I told Fanless that, you would have thought I told him we ate small kittens with ketchup; I think they arrest you for not having gravy in Washington). Not exactly the gut-busting Thanksgiving feast you typically envision, you know? I didn’t even need “Joey’s Thanksgiving Pants.”
After a few hours, my sister and her fiancé had to leave to go to his aunt’s house. I took the opportunity to say my goodbyes as well, and left to go back to Fanless’ place. He was still sleeping in the exact same spot where I left him. He woke up a few minutes later and we just hung out, watching TV for a while. After a few doses of Coldeeze, he was feeling better, and at about 9PM we decided to walk down to the 11th Street Diner for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner (the diner does that every year). Although the food was delicious, and I was with boy I love and adore, as I looked around at the other diners – the place was packed! – it was actually a little sad. It felt very lonely to be there, even though I wasn’t alone.
The thing is, it wasn’t always like this. Thanksgiving wasn’t always this “what are we going to do? Is anyone inviting us to their house? Are we cooking? Should we go out?” thing. When I was a child, and my paternal grandparents were alive and living with my dad’s brother’s family, we would all always get together for holidays and birthdays. And it was great! There were always a ton of people – aunts, uncles and cousins galore – talking loudly, eating, playing dominoes, dancing. It was really frantic and frenzied and fun. I didn’t realize at the time that it was also fleeting. When my grandparents died, so did the family bond. The glue that had held us together just kind of peeled off. Grown-ups got older. Kids grew up, got married, started their own families. People moved away. Everyone just kind of started doing their own thing. Now, nobody cares anymore. I haven’t even seen my cousins in years. It depresses me even more because we were so close growing up.
I read a ton of blogs written by women who reside in places like Virginia, Idaho, Oregon, places like that, and when they blog about their Thanksgiving festivities, there are all these pictures of huge families gathered in the kitchen preparing a delicious meal together, and sitting around a long, beautifully set table, laughing and talking and eating. Post-dinner games of Guesstures and Pictionary. Kids running around working off the sugar-high from all the desserts. Men sitting around the TV watching football and high-fiving each other. Or everyone settled down to watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” or “A Christmas Story.” It makes me wish my family would celebrate in that manner. This is definitely one of those holidays that makes me wish I were American. (No, not American like that; I was born here. I mean like “gringo” American.) We Cubans, we just don’t get it, I think. Or maybe it’s just my family.
Fanless doesn’t understand why I love his family’s “Family Christmas” tradition so much. To him it’s just another boring family gathering. To me, it’s a testament to the family bond. There’s never a question about it. It’s just known that every year, two weeks before Christmas, there will be 20-something family members traveling to Grandma and Grandpa’s farm in Othello, Washington, to join together as a family for a few days and celebrate the holidays together. There will be cooking and caroling and picture taking and gift exchanging and game playing. And I love that I get to be a part of that now. His family is awesome! And Family Christmas is awesome. I just love the tradition of it.
And it makes me sad that we don’t have traditions like that to hold on to.
(And if you made it this far, you’re a trooper! And I hope your Thanksgiving was much, MUCH better than mine. Peace out, yo!)