Sometimes things happen around the Holidays, odd things. Nothing to be done about it either. Can’t fight City Hall or outrageous fate. You can tear out your hair over it, rend your garments, get busy with the wailing and gnashing of teeth routine, or you can roll with the punches. And when it’s life that’s doing the punching, there’s no one to blame, no one to defend yourself against or from whom to seek retribution. It’s just life, and that’s the way it goes sometimes. Nothing personal, just your turn in the barrel. It’s random. We might wail “Why me?” The answer might be; “Why not you?” Sometimes things just happen, things like this:
You have a Thanksgiving gathering in your home, first time you get to host the big event for the entire extended family. It seems your parents have gone on a second honeymoon this year, and the honors are yours. The pressure is enormous, the comparisons to other family members’ memorable feasts are many. You prepare for weeks, you and the lovely wife, polishing every stick of furniture, even painting the place like you’ve been meaning to do for the past decade.
Then you shop for enough food to feed a regiment. You don’t want to get too creative and mess with the traditional Thanksgiving menu, so you go the turkey, yams and cranberry sauce route, plus about a dozen other things in huge amounts, more than everyone you’ve ever met could eat in one day.
And you pull it off somehow, first time out of the gate! The house looks great, the food is perfect and when the table is set it looks like that Norman Rockwell painting. Only trouble is, that it’s not the Norman Rockwell family sitting down to the feast, it’s your family. By the time you serve dinner, Uncle Charlie is roaring drunk and telling dirty jokes, Aunt Rose is kicking him under the table and your 22 year-old nephew Joey, your big brother’s kid with the dozens of face piercings and death-motif tattoos announces he’s a strict carnivore and will eat only meat, preferably raw beef.
His teenage brothers and sisters, two sets of boy-girl twins, have been smoking pot in your garage and can’t stop giggling. Your 92 year-old grandfather decides to lead the family in saying grace and forgets the words halfway through. Four times. Granny, who’s nearly deaf, shouts to all that she hopes Gramps doesn’t soil himself like he did at the 4th of July barbecue.
The meal finally starts and your 5 foot, 2-inch tall, 300-pound Aunt Millie starts critiquing each dish, usually in a negative way, and just to be absolutely certain she doesn’t like anything you cooked, fills her plate several times. Uncle Charlie slips your 9 year-old kid a 5 spot to keep the ice cubes and bourbon coming, and teaches him what the words “douche bag” mean.
Your thirty-something, thrice-divorced sister-in-law Mildred who gets very tense around the holidays has solved that little problem by taking a handful of tranquilizers and is now hanging all over Cousin Joey as he chews on a raw steak he thawed out in the microwave, telling him she doesn’t care one bit if everybody thinks he’s a maladjusted little shit, she thinks he’s one sexy freak show of a man. Joey grunts between bloody mouthfuls and slips a hand up her dress.
Your 15 year-old daughter is sitting next to them, rolling her eyes and texting a blow-by-blow account of the dinner to her friends. Your brother Rick, the know-it-all blowhard who married a woman who’s father created a lucrative do-nothing job for him at his import-export business, is drinking egg nog and brandy concoctions and repeating the political theories of Rush Limbaugh louder and louder as if he made them up himself until his wife tells him to shut the hell up a dozen or more times.
Your son announces that Uncle Ricky is douche bag and Uncle Charlie tells another dirty joke while Cousin Joey and Mildred disappear into your son’s bedroom. Your daughter abruptly announces that she hates you all and wishes she were dead and disappears into her own room in a huff while Joey’s siblings go back to the garage to smoke more pot.
Your son calls his pothead cousins a bunch of douche bags too while he fetches more ice cubes and bourbon for Uncle Charlie while you and the lovely wife clean up dinner and prepare for dessert. It turns out that the pot smoking teens have already devoured the lemon meringue and coconut custard pies with their bare hands and are wiping their hands on the curtains. Luckily you have about six other things for dessert.
Your wife is crying silently as you shoo the teenagers back to the garage and put on the coffee. Your daughter emerges from her room and drags your son into the kitchen to help, then starts hugging your wife and crying along with her in the kitchen, telling her that Joey and Mildred are making a racket in your son’s room, at which point the kid makes a beeline to his bedroom and flings the door wide open and snaps on the light before you can catch up to him, with everyone from the dining room table right behind him.
You hear your son yell; “Whoa, cooool!” while your Uncle Charlie tells Joey to give her a good one for him, Aunt Rose kicks him in the shins again, RIck tells no one in particular that this is President Obama’s fault for tearing society apart and Gramps starts singing the national anthem when he hears the word “President.” You shut the light and the door and herd everyone back to the table for dessert. Now Grandma’s in the kitchen with your wife and daughter crying with them and you drag them to the table too. It’s time for coffee and dessert, and there’s still pies, some peach cobbler, candies and brownies.
The marijuana crew load their plates with sweets, as does Aunt Millie, while Gramps falls asleep in his plate of pumpkin pie. Joey and Mildred emerge from your son’s room, grab their coats and announce they are off to Vegas to elope while your son screams at them that they made his bed all gooey and they’re a couple of douche bags. Uncle Charlie drinks a toast to the young lovers and gets yet another kick in the shins from Aunt Rose.
Your wife and daughter are silently weeping into their coffee and dessert and the stoners are sucking the laughing gas from the whipped cream canisters, and then they go to your computer, change all your settings and download a bunch of creepy video games. Your brother Rick’s wife is telling him to shut the hell up and go watch some football or something and all of a sudden Gramps wakes up and makes a dash for the bathroom, not quite making it in time, earning a “stinky old douche bag” from your son. Your parents’ sudden decision to go on a second honeymoon on Thanksgiving weekend doesn’t seem so surprising anymore.
The double sets of stoned twins raid the fridge for leftovers while Uncle Charlie and Aunt Rose argue over the car keys. Aunt Millie packs a giant doggy bag as Rick and his wife collect their teenagers and say goodnight. Grandma announces loud enough to be heard in the next state that this was the best Thanksgiving ever, and that you should be the permanent family host for Thanksgiving every year from now on. You reach for Uncle Charlie’s bourbon and wonder just how hard it is to fake your own death. Happy Thanksgiving!