Ah, the holidays – those warm, cozy times of families gathering around the festive table to eat a great meal and enjoy one another’s company. This year – not a chance! If you are feeling like I am right now, you are dreading the inevitable holiday dinner sit down that could possibly turn into something like a wrestling cage match.
As it is, holidays bring out the best and worst in people. We like to think of the past at these times – those fuzzy moments when we all gathered around the table with friends and loved ones who are no longer with us. Looking back now (still from the vantage point of sitting at the card tables in the living room with young siblings and cousins), I like to think of it as a Disney version of things – remembering everyone getting along and passing the sweet potatoes with melted marshmallows, instead of Uncle Jimmy yelling so hard about something that his false teeth popped out into a glass of cider.
Yes, we tend to glorify that past as the good old days and gloss over squabbles and bickering and the drunken relatives who would not leave the table until draining that wine bottle. Alas, they were also good times and everyone who is gone seemed so healthy and vibrant then, even my grandparents and other older relatives.
As a boy I took comfort in us all being together, and I figured every family had its disagreements. Back then the bickering could be Mets-Yankees or Jets-Giants more than anything political. Though I do recall when turning 18 and registering to vote being lambasted by my older relatives on Thanksgiving that year for not registering as a Democrat or a Republican – I chose to be an Independent and shook them all up a bit.
Though I recall one contingent of my family loving JFK (they adored him mostly because he was the first Catholic POTUS) and being fiercely loyal Democrats, they never fought with the Republican family wing who worshipped at the altar of Reagan. Maybe life was simpler then, but the disagreements tended to be much more about local politics (the two sides either loving or hating New York City Mayor Ed Koch, for example) and sports.
This year is poised to be different for my family and no doubt yours. The divide is much deeper now – the rift wider than ever before. In the past you didn’t see people most of the year and got together without knowing much of what was going on in their lives since last New Year’s Eve, but now courtesy of Facebook, Twitter, and email, we know everything that every cousin, aunt, and uncle thinks and does all year long (like seeing pictures of that great vacation Aunt Ester had in Florida or knowing about the deer cousin Jerry hung upside down in his garage after shooting it last week).
We also know about our family members’ political views and, this year in particular, the battle lines have been drawn in the sand in deep red and blue. The prospect of friendly banter may be subsumed by acrimonious conversations, especially if that annoying cousin Millie makes her usual one contribution to the conversation – this year no doubt being something along the lines of “How about that Trump?”
Since war may be waged over the Thanksgiving dinner table, perhaps keep the option open to using plastic utensils. Those big drumsticks – good possible weapons for sure – should probably be left on a platter in the kitchen, and don’t let Uncle Ralph (who will no doubt be wearing his red Make America Great Again Donald Trump hat) sit next to Hillary Clinton supporter Dad as he is carving the turkey, unless you want the shower scene from Psycho to unfold.
I don’t know about you, but I am contemplating skipping the whole dinner thing and going out to look for someplace that is open on Thanksgiving Day. The prospect of sitting down alone and eating some General Tso’s chicken at Szechuan Palace is infinitely more appealing than being there to witness the battle of the red and the blue over turkey and cranberry dressing.
So, gird your loins, America – this Thanksgiving is going to be a bumpy ride, but take solace in knowing that it will pass, and then everyone can kick the crap out of one another the next day trying to get the best deals in the stores on Black Friday. Man, you just have to love the holidays.