Monday, November 19, 2007

Remembrance of Thanksgivings Past

HappyChyck was kind enough last year to share her Thanksgiving memoirs with us. She left me thirsting for more!

I can't really say that I have any spectacular Thanksgiving memories. As a kid, it was just my mom and I, so we were always invited to spend the holiday with my aunt (mom's sister)and her husband's family. They are kind of a disfunctional bunch, but I always liked being part of a big gathering- probably 25-30 people. My mom, on the other hand, did not. Being single, she didn't really have an ally, anyone to dish with later when we got home. My aunt is kind of kooky, so they don't really have the closest relationship and my uncle's family is fraught with DRAMA!. He comes from a family of 5- he is right in the middle, I believe. He is completely inept socially- bad eye contact, holes up in the corner and either reads or plays cards so he does not actually have to interact with others. His older brother lives in Virginia, so he was rarely here for Thanksgiving. He was in VietNam and was exposed to some chemical that caused him to lose all his hair permanently, and wears a really bad wig. He's also an alcoholic, which is unfortunate and sad, but did make his company rather humorous at times. The other brother is the favorite son and is King Dork. He was a band teacher in suburban Chicago before retiring and was very active in his church choir. He wanted the family to sing together- "We Gather Together" or some such nonsense. It wouldn't be so dorky if someone else did it, but he's got this really booming, affected voice. His son was always trying to put the moves on me, kind of, which is gross because it's like one step away from incest- not really, but kind of. Yeah, later,he ended up doing time in the big house for dating a student. Nice. I always liked his daughter until we all went away to college and she ended up going sorority and got completely Muffied.
The youngest son in the clan was pretty funny and much loved- he died very suddenly when he was 32. He also was an alcoholic- and only had 1 kidney. Not a good combination.
The only daughter was 18 years younger than the oldest son. She always came late and spent 2 hours taking a shower and washing and drying her hair. Every year she would do this. There was a period of time when she attended holidays with a lady friend that I think she was in a relationship with, but no one would ever talk about it. Years later, my cousins and I are all like "oh yeah, they were totally a couple". She is married to a man - get this- she met him while she was doing long-term private nursing for his dying wife. They started dating before the poor woman had even died! DRAMA!
The matriarch of the clan is a widow and would always bring like 20 pies with her- practically a pie for every person. She is a very industrious, very frugal woman, very sweet, but also a bit oblivious. She is very religious- belongs to a church that frowns upon alcohol consumption of any kind (did you notice that 2 of her children were alcoholics?). One year, someone made a tub of frozen vodka slush and the ladies were sipping on it during the cooking. Someone did tell Grandma there was alcohol in it, but she kind of acted like she didn't hear them and sucked down 2 or 3 glasses of it. Her late husband was a traveling salesman and would stay with my aunt and uncle sometimes when they were a young married couple. They noticed that after he'd been there, there booze was gone and the bottles had been filled with water. Isn't that sad? Can you imagine finding that out about your dad? And yet, he is held up on this pedestal to this day.
Grandma's mother also came to the festivities. Great grandma of the Germanist name you ever heard- HUGE nose and made an afghan for each great-grandchild even when her hands had gotten so gnarled with arthritis you couldn't believe she was still able to crochet at all. When I graduated from high school, she gave me a card and a note she had written in her 90+ year old handwriting. She enclosed a dollar. It was one of the sweetest things I got. I wasn't even a great grandchild of hers. She lived to be 102.

Once I got to college, Thanksgiving changed. Once I started dating my husband, it changed for good. We don't see my aunt at all on Thanksgiving anymore. I think every family has that shift, where your group has to divide and grow in a different direction.



Blogger Professor J said...

This is a good idea.

And I think it is good that our traditions and our idea of who is family shift as we age.

11/20/2007 8:16 AM  
Blogger HappyChyck said...

Yes, that is an interesting idea about how families and traditions change. How could they not when you merge two different people with possibly different traditions?

My own father was a renegade about making his own family traditions, so we NEVER traveled to other families' homes on the holidays. He has encouraged my brother and me to do the same with our own families, so I completely understand this shifting concept. (Can you believe my parents have actually discouraged me from spending Christmas with them because it was more important for me to stay home with my own newly-formed family?)

Your extended family has some interesting-sounding people. How different is your view of them in retrospect than it was when you were a child?

Thanks for sharing!

11/20/2007 8:00 PM  
Blogger Adeline said...

i would really like to do this but my mother in law reads my blog now and so i would be in trouble if i did :o)

11/21/2007 1:23 AM  

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