I am grateful this year that we will be celebrating Thanksgiving at my daughter's home with just my other daughter's family in attendance. But it's not for the reason I usually give, which is my age. We have not attempted the extended family gatherings for years because our numbers are too large. Sadly, there is now another reason that divides us. Following this toxic, bitter, hate-filled, divisive election, I'm not sure our extended family could break bread together in peace.
Because my daughter was born in November of 1973, by 1974 I was in charge of Thanksgiving for our extended family. I happily accepted this responsibility because Thanksgiving was a holiday I cherished for bringing family together.
Prior to assuming responsibility for hosting Thanksgiving, I have vague memories of growing up celebrating the holiday with my siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. Of course the menu included turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. The most distinctive item on the table, however, was the sliced jelled cranberries with strange grooves on the side. My father loved this delicacy, but I hated the looks of it. It was only as an adult that I learned this version of cranberry sauce came straight from the can, and that cranberries could actually be tasty if prepared differently.
The Thanksgiving of my daughter's birth definitely gave new meaning to this holiday for me. My parents spent the day with my young son, my husband, and me staring at my belly. I was "overdue" and not in a great mood. I have no memory of what we did to celebrate that Thanksgiving, but I banished my parents by the end of the weekend. Thanksgiving was early that year, November 22. They left November 25, and my daughter was born November 26. Yes, I was a jerk. They literally turned around and came back from Michigan to care for my two-year-old.
After that year, Thanksgiving was all mine, and for 40 years, I hosted it in various evolving iterations. My husband's ever-expanding family lived in town, so they always came. My parents came every year as well. For a time, my siblings and eventually their wives drove in from Michigan. At some point, they had kids and splintered off to celebrate with their own families at home. Still, the numbers grew and grew.
Life happened. Babies were born, nieces and nephews married and had children, and Thanksgiving had become unmanageable. I was squeezing three tables into my home to accommodate up to 40 guests. I knew my relationship with Thanksgiving was in trouble. It was time for family counseling, as a divorce from this holiday was inevitable. My kids were now married and having kids. It was just too much.
So Thanksgiving evolved once again. My mother-in-law and parents died. My husband's family broke into smaller units to celebrate, and this year it's just two of my kids' families, including six of my grandkids, my husband and me. That's a very manageable number.
So why am I waxing nostalgic about this holiday after the election of 2016? I guess it's because, even though the extended family broke up years ago for logistical reasons, I can't imagine how we could have celebrated together this year. The divisive political climate split our extended family into separate camps. Despite our love for one another, it would have been challenging to celebrate our blessings together. This year, there would be more anger than gratitude around the table.
Like many families, ours is still trying to find its way past the bitter political differences that divide us. May our political wounds begin to heal. May all of the other divided families in our country find the path to remembering the love they share.