In my version, we all hold hands around the table, smile lovingly, and share how grateful we all are for the selfless, meaningful things we’ve done for each other all year. The dog curls up contentedly in a corner. No one drinks too much. No one says anything cynical. No teenager brings their phone. No child tantrums. No older siblings laugh about painful memories from the past. No in-laws are critical. All the food turns out perfectly; my pies set just fine. A shaft of beautiful light falls across the table and a slight breeze blows our hair in an attractive way.
What’s your version? It’s what you think Thanksgiving should be before you realize it’s all the same people.
Just as when we sit on a bicycle we have muscle memory for pedaling, when we sit with our first family, we have a kind of muscle memory for “nuts.”
That means If you were tense growing up, even if you’re normally very calm now, you might feel anxiety at the table. If you could never get a word in edgewise as a kid, though you may be very articulate now, you could feel tongue-tied. If you were the funny one, who lightened everything up, you might find yourself acting the clown. If the family had a culture of criticism or bickering, even if you spend most of your adult life in a good mood, you may catch yourself sparing with someone. If withdrawing helped you cope, or you spent a lot of time alone, you might gravitate toward the dishwasher. Or, if your childhood was a playful delight, you could end up twirling in the living room at 56, which in my book, is just fine.
The truth is, no one is the same now as they were when they were children; we just have a habit of acting that way with when we are with our first families.
Here are a few simple strategies if Thanksgiving tends to get weird:
…. The trees in midtown, garden peppers, the ocean, Elizabeth Ginger Chocolates, my clients, the Yolo Bypass, geese, the delta, little laughing kids, firefighters, persimmons, old friends, corn muffins, yoga, this moment now …. Happy Thanksgiving.