Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Thanksgiving Rant, Don't Be Such A Turkey


I've been reading articles all week about how to "cope" with Thanksgiving. I don't get it. This is by far the coolest -and warmest- holiday of the year.

Thanksgiving is a paid day or two off from work and school. It's secular, non-dressy, no gifts are even involved.

The whole purpose is comfort: hanging out with friends and loved ones, eating delicious food, watching television for hours, taking long naps. Coming home. Or going someplace fun.

And, if you're lucky, spending quality time counting your blessings.

Plus, a bonus for those who care about such things: a whole weekend to shop til you drop.

What other country would think up such a great holiday? And what other country would try harder to screw up such a good thing?

Psychic Shock
But there they are, the ubiquitous articles on how to protect your delicate ego from interfering family members. 

"How to get through a visit with your parents ... or your children." (Man up! Woman up! It's one day for cryin out loud).
"How to manage a meal next to creepy Uncle Bud." (Stab his wandering hands with a fork and apologize profusely). "How to refrain from flipping off annoying Aunt Sylvia." (Say something you know will please her or -if she's annoying beyond redemption- go ahead and piss her off).

"How to shut the kids up." Um, I mean, "How to keep the kids busy and involved." (Turn this over to the older kids or younger couples. Tell them it's a rule and/or good practice).
Then of course there's the media frenzy with "news "reports braying about nightmareish Thanksgiving travel and crowded stores.

I have some advice for those who buy into such cynical pandering to the greedy, neurotic and disenfranchised among us: Get over yourselves! Stop kvetching! Oy vey, Enjoy already! (Okay, sorry, for a minute there I made Thanksgiving a Jewish holiday).
Younger complainers: if you can wait days in line for concert tickets, iPhones and X-Boxes, surely you can spend a few hours in an airport, train station or car to bring joy to those who love you more than any rock star ever will.

Grown children: Stop whining about schlepping to Mom and Dad's house. Remember. these are the people who spent time, effort, money and countless sleepless nights helping you make it to adulthood.

If they didn't, or were abusive, mean, nasty, horrible parents, don't go near them! You're an adult, you have the power now. Use it without guilt and with my blessing.
But if they did their best, give them the love and respect they've earned. Show up, bring something, smile, help with the cooking and the dishes. Appreciate how lucky you are to have a family and a place to call home.
Couples: Stop arguing over whose side of the family to visit and which mother will pile on the most guilt if you don't. Remind yourselves and your parents that doing so pulls you apart.

If they love you, they should encourage you to respect each other. Try to please each other. Make your own decisions. And refine your ability to  share.

If that doesn't work, use the big guns. Remind them that too many people have no families, homes or food on Thanksgiving or any other day.

Say you will pick a side to visit this year and donate money to a shelter in the other side's name. Then promise to switch visits next year.

If economics are involved, make the best plan you can, be gracious, firm and loving. Don't let yourself be bullied. It's your relationship, not theirs.

Never ever ever use your children as holiday leverage. Do not involve them in a power struggle over who loves who more. Work out a holiday schedule responsive to YOUR CHILDREN, not your personal grievances.

You are giving them memories. Will they need a shrink or learn to create a loving Thanksgiving themselves?

Assist/send/let them go to the other parent without guilt, anger or anything but a big smile and a "Have a great time!"

If you're a real class act (and, well, a little passive-aggressive), help them make something scrumptious to take along.
Reality Check
There's only one thing that should be really hard to handle at Thanksgiving: the empty chairs of loved ones -- unable to come, far away or gone for good.

How trivial to whine about your family's "dysfunctional issues" when others are spending Thanksgiving at a child's hospital bedside. In their own hospital bed. Trying to connect to or from Iraq and Afghanistan. Or bereft and alone.
Give Thanks
Do yourself a favor. Drop the anti-Thanksgiving attitude. Count your blessings for the things you have ... and the things I hope you never have to face.

Then take another moment to remember -and if possible, help- those for whom Thanksgiving is only another day of pain, or a painful reminder of loved ones missing and missed.

Andersons 2009

If you can't do that, then you're just a big turkey.

PS You'd also do well to remember there are those who might be dreading dealing with you. Help them get over it. You'll thank me.

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving! Or else.
Now, go. Eat. Drink. Enjoy.
On a special note, we're giving thanks our Jersey Shore family's house was spared and donating to those less fortunate. We so grateful for the cease fire in the Middle East and praying for a lasting peace. We welcome three Israeli nieces and families to our table here in Philly this Thanksgiving. For a brief time, all they'll have to fear are bellies bursting, not bombs. Thank g-d.
cousins last year


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