Surviving family thanksgiving

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Standing in the corner of your grandparents’ tiny bungalow hiding behind a beer you don’t want, staring out into the chaos.

A sea of people ebb and flow between the dining room and the kitchen, occasionally rising into cacophonous laughter for no reason before settling back down into a wash of murmurs and chit-chat.

The food represents every eclectic flavour of what Cost-Co thinks Thanksgiving is about, and you watch all that salted meat and roasted veggies slowly fade away between fingers and printed napkins, only to end up in mid-conversational mouths.

You stop to ask yourself “What the hell am I doing here?” Yet you return every year to indulge in the free food, snicker secretly at poorly-dressed relatives and attempt to drink yourself into a functioning oblivion.

I can’t be the only one feeling like a total alien during holidays. An alien bombarded by questions and scrutiny from my relatives about my daily life.

If my life were interesting enough to allow bragging about grandiose excursions, I’d understand.

But when my grandest trip in months involves finding time to fall asleep in a movie theater, the fervor with which family interrogate me feels less justified.

Maybe this is just me, but I have a huge family (we hit 35 attendees for my mother’s Thanksgiving alone this past weekend) and not one of them had the sense to consolidate their questions.

They all asked me what program I was in and a variation on where my boyfriend was. It’s also the older relatives who often get excited at the idea of living as a poor 20-something.

Nothing about this excites anymore. It might, if you’re in first year — but by the time you cross the threshold into “How soon is my rent due again?”, coming home starts to feel weird.

Let’s face it, you’re gone most of the year and things change pretty drastically in that time.

The dog might have slowed down considerably from age, mom might have a new car, younger siblings might develop actual angst.

The family photo you know and love is there, but the details have aged.

Life goes on; even when you begin a new one the old one never has the good sense to evaporate — because you can always go back.

Yes, it’s a drag to dress up stories about your living situation instead of just admitting to the amount of TV you torrent, but this is what you do.

When the leaves fall, or the commercialism starts swirling like snowflakes around December, you pack some slacks and hop a bus to free food. It’s what we do.

It’s what our family wants from us, the opportunity to see the progress of the person they created or watch grow up, a little human now a decent distance away from regular visits and probably not so little anymore.

As odd as the disconnect can feel, once you realize that you’re no longer a steady fixture in your household, you can’t help appreciating the nostalgia of home-cooked meals.

Coming home may never seem the same again, but you’ll always do it. Even if you convince yourself that it’s just for the free food.

You can say it’s for old times sake—but you know you care.

It’s just what you do.

 

By Jessi Wood

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