This past week – I heard and read story after story about the incredible stress of getting together with extended family for the Thanksgiving holiday. Apparently the American people delight in serving up a side of messy dysfunction alongside their turkey and pumpkin pie!
This is such a pathetically sad commentary on our society and the health of our relationships.
But wow – do I remember those days! I come from a seriously dysfunctional family of origin. My family of origin put the dys- in dysfunctional!
I dreaded holiday gatherings with my family of origin for decades. Attending those gatherings was truly wretchedly awful.
I only attended those gatherings because I thought I had to go. Guilt and obligation and more guilt made me go. There was no joy in it. I hated every minute of it. (I have had root canals I liked more than our family gatherings.)
Until I realized – I didn’t need to go. Seriously – I did NOT need to go. I was an adult and had been for decades. I could choose with whom I celebrated the holidays. I could and should be choosing the people I with whom wanted/needed to be spending time.
Seriously – if getting together with people makes you miserable and upset – why on earth are you still doing it? (Perhaps this is what the radio people should have been pondering . . . )
I stopped going to these festivals of dread several years ago. I reclaimed the joy in my holiday celebrations.
Now I look forward to days like Thanksgiving and Christmas because I am spending them with people with whom I have healthy – loving relationships. Now I can be relaxed and myself – rather than on guard. Because I am accepted and loved for who I am. Things I didn’t always have.
But even now – the McFarland/Markward gatherings are less than picture perfect. Because – quite simply – we still bring our human humanness with us to our family gatherings . . .
And in spite of what others may be putting out there on social media – I firmly believe that absolutely – positively none of us are going to be able to achieve a Thanksgiving/Christmas/4th of July/Arbor Day gathering worthy of a Norman Rockwell painting. Norman Rockwell paintings are fun and sometimes funny. Other times they are lovely – but they aren’t always terribly realistic.
Personally – I tend to think that my life looks more like a Pablo Picasso . . . Or perhaps even a Marc Chagall . . . (I love – love – love his work! And who doesn’t like a great floating chicken?!?)
Because the sassy – stubborn orange kitten is always going to jump up onto the kitchen counter and help himself to some yummy pecan pie. (Why – yes our sweet Craig did eat some of Mimi’s pie this year. . . And boy did he think it was tasty!)
Or Crazy Aunt Kerri is going to be simply aghast to learn that the children these days don’t have to memorize the periodic table in chemistry. She thinks this is why kids today are so dim-witted. (Yes – that was me!) She and Uncle Jason are going to assert memorization is good for the brain and the children are going to assert memorization is both stupid and pointless because they will ALWAYS have phones in their hands and “be able to look it up.”
Or your youngest child will take you seriously when you joke he can enroll at the elementary school where his Auntie is principal for the month of December! Will was truly crushed to learn he could NOT stay in Richmond for an entire month to attend 3rd grade at Auntie’s school . . .
Or in joking with my father-in-law who was complaining about being cold. And when we all looked at him – we noted he was wearing shorts . . . in late November . . . in central Indiana. My sister-in-law declared – “Dad – PUT ON PANTS!” It was hilariously funny (if you were there. . . )
But that is what I have come to treasure about Thanksgiving and life with family. It is the messiness – the humanness of it all. I treasure the realness. That is where the joy is for me.
The joy is Will running triumphantly into our bedroom at 5:30 AM on Thanksgiving morning to share the joyous news that he had lost a tooth! (We are all up and getting ready to drive to my in-laws in Richmond for the day.) The joy is in Uncle John taking a nap in his favorite chair. And Craig stealing pecan pie. And Mimi and Uncle Jason sparring over politics in the kitchen over the dishes. And my father-in-law finally wearing pants! And knitting while watching the birds have their Thanksgiving dinner at the birdfeeders in my in-laws’ backyard.
The joy is in our human humanness and in the way we can just laugh and talk and hang out and relax be ourselves with one another. The joy is in the realness of it all.
And in accepting one another for who we are. And in being thankful for these people we get to share the journey with . . . . And celebrating this. I prefer the messes and the goofiness and the realness.
I give thanks my Pablo Picasso life . . .
What about you?