All this week, every time someone friendly asked me, “Got plans for Thanksgiving?” I’ve had to shrug and say, “Wish I knew.” As of this morning, six days before the big event, neither my family nor Anne’s had communicated a single word to either of us one way or another. No Facebook “event” set up. No direct messages. No general statuses. No phone calls. No cards. No sign of any volunteers. No visible evidence that any of them still considered Thanksgiving a worthy celebration and not a fabricated Hallmark card-selling stunt.
Hoping for the best but planning for the worst, we decided tonight to buy our own fourteen-pound backup turkey. Just in case. Because sometimes you gotta take holiday matters into your own hands.
Where things stand with the two very different sides of the family:
Side A used to have Thanksgiving every year like clockwork at the same elderly relative’s house, the kind and loving lynchpin among them all. Said lynchpin is no longer in a position to continue hosting duties anymore. The unspoken assumption was that Thanksgiving would work itself out and happen naturally every year with someone else taking the helm. So far, no takers this year. Some candidates have perfectly understandable reasons for declining the nomination. Some candidates have gone into hiding, died, and/or faked their deaths. In a rare move for us, in the face of so much silence from a family that had already collectively blown off their annual Easter gathering this year, we took the initiative to offer to be that new lynchpin for once, to try hosting at our humble abode in case anyone among them might still be interested in a family gathering. The initial response so far has been, “NO! NOT YOU GUYS! PLEASE! ANYONE BUT YOU! NOOOOOOOOO!” In so many words. Or utter lack thereof.
Side B’s Thanksgiving has bounced around between three different relatives over the years. They skipped at least one year due to diverging plans, more than one year as I faintly recall, so theirs was not a guaranteed event. All of them are on Facebook and usually pretty communicative about such things. This year, not so much. We’re somewhat like outliers on Side B — generally welcomed, but not exactly high-ranking. When I made inquiries today after weeks of nothingness, I was told of course they’re having Thanksgiving and they just assumed everyone knew they were tacitly invited. We don’t really function that way. I wish we could.
Two different families. One long month of unanimous silence. Two completely different meanings within each respective cone of silence.
In a world where cultural fractionalization and social tribalization have divided people into so many camps in which the meaning of “family” is fluid to the point of uselessness, we think we’d have to be pretty arrogant to assume anything about anyone beyond our own four walls. Anne and I spent part of tonight trying to work through that piece.
This much we know with confidence:
1. Next week is Thanksgiving. There ought to be turkey. And dessert.
2. My son is coming down from college for a few days. For him a cooked turkey would be a welcome change from canned Beefaroni.
3. We have the power to afford and cook food.
So now we have a turkey and a pie. We bought several other Thanksgiving food options to go in between them, but who cares. We have turkey and we have pie.
And we have a plan.
If anyone on Side A wants a family Thanksgiving, we’ll be there for them with juicy turkey in hand, pie on deck, and familial love in our hearts to continue their decades-old tradition for their sake. We’d at least like to try, y’know?
If Side A doesn’t want to be saved and gets back to us with fifteen responses of “We made other plans”, that’s fine. That’s something to go on. That’s not leaving us in limbo. If they maintain radio silence for fear of either our cooking or our dog, we’ll respect their decision to skip this year by default, with the hope that this doesn’t mean they’re permanently disbanding and joining other families.
It’s comforting to know (well, now we do, anyway) that Side B already set family food plans in motion and would be happy to have us over. If Side A opts out and we spend Thanksgiving with Side B, then the turkey and pie we bought tonight will be rescheduled for devouring on Black Friday, which in our household will be rechristened Thanksgiving II for the very special occasion. We’ll have dinner, we’ll have twice as many pounds of turkey left over, and we’ll have all the time in the world to enjoy each other’s company, to chat and joke and catch up and compare TV/movie opinions and cover all the other subjects that come up when my son comes to visit.
Because family and communication go great together. Much like turkey and pie.