I wonder if scientists will one day discover the latent “Thanksgiving Day” gene within our genome that impels relatives to make wild proclamations, divulge family secrets, and drag all the skeletons out of the closet for a holiday jamboree. Maybe tryptophan doubles as a truth serum, but the truth is: we have to fill up that lull of silence, like a gravy boat, between digesting courses of cranberry sauce, 5 bottles of wine, and half-time commercials somehow….it might as well be interesting.
Like a ticking, breadcrumb and Rosemary stuffed time bomb; our secrets have been marinating in shame, basted in years and opportunities wasted, and baked on High Expectations, in preparation for this holiday unveiling. Utilizing our Martha Stewart guest place cards as our inebriated, confessional battle strategy, we look to our loving family and relatives; drawing an invisible line down the middle of the dinner roll basket as the division of “allies” and “Enemies” , and take our stand:
“TAKE THIS TRUTH AND LOVE IT, OR SHOVE IT WHERE THE SUN DON’T SHINE!”
(** For added emphasis, point to the bird as “exhibit A”.)
Something about Thanksgiving brings relatives closer to their breaking point than a pair of greasy 6-year-old cousins fighting over a wishbone. Maybe because while we think we are sitting down to dinner with our families across the continent each and every night, instagramming our dinners to Facebook, we have this false sense that we are connected to one another, that we are a close family.
Even growing up in the Seventies, we rarely saw our Mom’s family. We lived in Colorado, and Mom’s family lived in Kansas. We knew of each other, played dolls and bit each other as cousins are wont to do, but we didn’t really know each other. Just because I thought some of my cousins had the picture perfect family, I was only peering though the foggy lens of my own broken family.
I was oblivious to my Mom’s impending plans for divorce. She was the first in her family to go through with it, and in the early 80’s, this still cast her in the predictable role of “Failing her wifely duties”. Twenty years later, I was to learn how bitter grandma felt at the time, that she didn’t leave grandpa, but hung on for another 11 years before she passed away, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Maybe she made peace with it. I hope so.
For my naïve part, I just loved sitting around the table at Thanksgiving. I loved our green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup (like god intended) and fried onions on the top. I loved olives on my fingers and squashing slices of canned cranberry sauce. I loved sitting near my Mom and her brothers and sister and grandma and grandpa (who doubled as an Episcopal priest) tell the most hilarious and dirtiest jokes, and watch them laugh and laugh and drink a whole lot more….. and laugh.
We were just goofy kids then, stealing snippets of stories like croutons from the dining room table, and then running off with my little brother to build a fort. We would collude with our cousins about how we could sneak a hamster home in our suitcase, before the long 8 hour drive home, without Mom noticing.
Fast forward 28 years, two failed marriages, and two awesome kids later, and I was ready for my own solo on “Trip the Lights Tryptophantastic”! My latent Thanksgivings Day gene finally made its debut in November, 2009.
I had just started dating women that year and fell in love with the most incredible woman I had ever known! She was a band geek, a math nerd, a Navy Sailor, and owned multiple pairs of “left” and “right” socks: she was absolutely NOTHING like me!
Sharing my love and excitement that could not be contained, I popped open like a sproingy snake from a peanut can anytime someone made eye contact with me. I was ready to burst at the seams and Mom and Dad were my first phone calls. (They were on the “Ally” side of the dinner rolls)
“Mom, I have something to tell you. I met someone.”
(in the background I hear Dad’s voice, realizing I must be on speaker phone) “What’s her name?” I love this man!
Mom, still in shock a little bit, but highly practiced in liberal political correctness etiquette:
“Umm, so you are gay? Are you sure this time? You know your Dad and I love you very much and will always support you…. Wait… did you say she was a republican???” Please pass the gravy, we are settling in for some good times!
“CB Preacher” was an 18 wheeler and 275 Horsepower of another color. CB Preacher is by DNA standards, my biological father. We have had tumultuous dealings for years; power struggles galore, and steer clear of conversational road hazards like Politics and Religion. If it isn’t Black Jack, we probably aren’t speaking.
Occasionally, CB Preacher, who bestowed upon his offspring the gift of ADD, often forgets that we don’t talk religion, and likes to insert it in his written epiphanies and Road Scholar sermons via email sent by my step-mom. The latest was him waxing poetically about how much he and Tebow are connected by their faith in God and kneeling after a touchdown. He mentioned his love of watching his grandchildren, whom he never sees, and I wondered if this outreach was a real or imagined sign.
So I fumbled with my Martha Stewart talking points and called.
“Hey Dad. How’s it going?”
“How are the Broncos doing?” (as if I care)
“How’s your divorce? Ex still giving you trouble?”
“It’s a process. Well, while I’ve got you on the horn, I just thought I would let you know that the kids are fine, I’m a lesbian, and I met an incredible woman in the Navy.”
(Cue interminable pause on the TIVO, a trip to the bathroom, check the score on the tv, and time to clear a Thanksgiving Dinner table for the four horses of the Apocalypse…… and we’re back)
“You know I can never give you my blessing.”
“Wasn’t asking for one Pop. Well, now you have an ice-breaker for Thanksgiving when the mashed potatoes get cold and the gravy has run out.” BOOM! Turkey Bomb delivered……and the last time we spoke.
And, while that wasn’t perhaps the most sensitive time to approach CB Preacher about this, I figure after 38 years of stewing in silence, keeping a secret I never wanted to keep for the sake of making certain people feel more comfortable in their homophobic skin, that bird was SOO ready to come out of the oven! It was a little dry, but nothing good gravy can’t smooth over.
Family gatherings are spread out across the calendar for good reason. We love each other, but we can only take so many helpings at one sitting. Then we need to pull away from the table, loosen a belt buckle or slide our elastic waistband down “let it all hang out”. We need time to digest this new information, let it settle,and then neatly pack up our leftovers in our daisy patterned Tupperware to return to our Facebook obsessed lives.
I am deeply Thankful to my family, and all those wacky bastards that put up with my shenanigans, political and religious tirades (extra helpings!) and love me and our family for who we are. I love my Mom’s family through good secrets and poor choices, through good times, and holding in the inevitable Turkey bombs we all have to let fly. I applaud the strength of character and immense compassion my family has to hold each other up, and even when we disagree, hold on tighter.
I’m thankful to my wife, for her bravery and courage in living on the front lines of my emotional battlefields for over 4 years and still loves me, and my son who has seen me through 22 years of growing up. He raised me to be a better human and mom. Also to my daughter who has boundless amounts of Joy, energy, and Love that could heal the whole world.
This Thanksgiving Blog is dedicated to my Mom, who raised me to raise my voice, even if it seems no one is listening, and imparted the best sage motherly advice, that carried her through a Masters Program:
“If those idiots can do it, then so can you!”
I love you Mom.
(*** my second Thanksgiving Day confession for you Thanksgiving 2013… I secretly take my wife’s “left” socks and hold secret leftist society sock meetings with them. Don’t tell her. ) 😉