Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving dinners past and present

I read Sarah Seltzer and Lauren Kelley’s hilarious article “5 Ways to Deal With Your Conservative Relatives This Thanksgiving” before going to my sister’s for Thanksgiving dinner. It got me thinking about Thanksgivings past and how life has changed. My husband and I are the older generation now. The conservative relatives who would have made those cringe inducing remarks have for the most part passed away.

I had some very ugly fights with relatives in my family of origin. Over the years I frequently bit my tongue at Thanksgiving dinners with in-laws. When you’ve married outside your racial/ ethnic/ religious group (which I’ve done 3 times), getting into a political fight is a bit more risky.

We used to drive to Rhode Island every year to spend Thanksgiving with my husband’s relatives but most of them are no longer with us. Now we spend Thanksgiving with my sister and her friends. She has created a surrogate family with a group of old friends and they’ve taken us in.

When most of the folks around your Thanksgiving dinner table are good friends who share your progressive politics, you are not likely to hear climate change denials and birther rantings.

My sister, her immediate family and friends are all liberal Democrats. The only danger of a political argument would be with liberals who have become disillusioned with Obama. So I took Seltzer and Kelley's advice and went to brush up on the President’s accomplishments at “WHAT THE FUCK HAS OBAMA DONE SO FAR?” (Yes, I know there have been disappointments but over-all it’s an impressive record.) It turned out to be unnecessary. The only political anger expressed was directed--as it should be--towards the Republicans.

My sister used to bemoan having such a small nuclear family and long for the big holiday dinner. Well, she got what she wished for. Her Thanksgiving celebration keeps growing as her friend’s children have married and bring their partners. This year she could barely squeeze her expanding family into her house.

My guess is that my sister’s mix of family members and good friends is increasingly becoming the norm in our mobile society with changing notions of what counts as family. It sure beats the Thanksgiving Dinner from Hell that Seltzer and Kelley describe.


  1. Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday since our tradition of friends and family has begun.
    It is wonderful to eat, drink and laugh with like minded, loving people whom you choose to spend time with and not have any obligatory emotions. I am so glad you and your family our part of our celebration.

  2. I can't even bear tripping over "those people" in the blogosphere, let alone when I'm trying to eat. If I had birthers in my family, I'd be shoveling away, thinking "come ON, tryptophans."

  3. I learned in my twenties that no good could come of arguing with most of my family, who with a single exception are (as my brother proudly describes himself) "extreme right wing." It's much more open-spirited to have the occasional disagreement about executive power and the administration's economic agenda with those who share the same basic wishes for our society. Your sister's created community is the way many of us have formed enduring bonds with those whom we feel lucky to love. To nod to Murr, meals with our friends-family are tryptophan-friendly!

  4. Like Murr, I can't imagine sitting across the dinner table from a birther!

    Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday for the "created community" of friends and family-- a basically secular holiday. I love it!

    I can't believe that Rush Limbaugh and others on extreme right are try to impose a right wing story line on Thanksgiving!

  5. This particular year, we largely ignored the Holiday because our kids live so far away and plane fares are so deadly from mid-Oct to January. We went to the movies to see "Fair Game"--excellent and hereby recommended.

    T'giving at your sister's sounds ideal! A big, celebratory meal with like-minded and congenial people sounds like something to be very thankful for. Ask her to squeeze in two more next year, please.

  6. Nance,
    There's something to be said for ignoring these over-hyped holidays!!