Thank goodness the holidays are over. The last song has been sung, the last fight done. We are back to hanging out with people of our own choosing. Holidays bring families together whether we like it or not, and families are tricky things indeed. As a wise psychologist told me, you want to have a sense of community but you don't know if that's the club you really want to belong to.
Tolstoy thought all happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Sounds deep but remember it comes from a guy who spent many long, dreary, vodka-fueled winters in Russia.
Just what is a happy family? Do you know what one actually looks like? Seems to be the whole concept is up for interpretation. Dad carving a turkey with kids eagerly looking on is Norman Rockwell's vision of a happy family at holiday time. If he did that picture today, Dad's still carving but the kids now have their heads bowed, eyes under the table as they text and tweet on their oh-so-smartphones. Happy? Suppose so.
If you're the eminent American food writer M.F.K. Fisher, you see holiday family dinners as an ordeal of nervous indigestion, preceded by hidden resentment, accompanied by psychosomatic jitters.
Other skeptics tell you family love is like bad wallpaper -- clinging, annoying and repetitive. Ouch
But let's be pragmatic about this. All families come with their own DNA-infused formats. Some families may be as unappealing as a gas station burrito. Most are a mish-mash of compassionate folks, flambouants, border-lines, wise, loving, egotistical, caustic and emotionally stunted adults.
Bottom line here: the family at holiday time is like your dog walking on its hind legs. It's yours. You love it. It doesn't work very well but you're amazed it works at all.