It struck me that I forgot to mention the other amusement of Thanksgiving this year. I’ve established that I need nothing to do with my birth family, and I perhaps intimated that my husband’s family Thanksgiving really wasn’t up my alley. The best I can say about most of those experiences was that they were… memorable.
One year, we drove nearly four hours to celebrate with them, but they decided to eat early, and they had just finished by the time we arrived.
One year, I was hosting, and I wasn’t going to bring the desserts out until people had a chance to socialize and let their dinners settle. My mother-in-law threw an almighty tantrum and stormed out.
One year, my brother-in-law made really off-color jokes the whole time – to the point where I realized I never wanted to try to eat at the same table as him again.
One year, I’d invited everyone over to have “pancakes and pajamas” for Thanksgiving morning, but they didn’t have the common decency to call and decline – and let me know that they were throwing their own Thanksgiving shindig.
So, on the whole, I feel pretty secure in the knowledge that I don’t want their brand of crazy for the day. I think it boils down to the fact that they want everyone there, they want the food all made a certain way, and then people gorge and go. There’s no real “family” time. Somewhere in the depths of my heart, I think that there should be time to sit down and play cards or games outside or… something. It shouldn’t just be about a frenzy to prepare a beast of a meal just for 20 minutes of chewing.
My happiest family gathering memories are seldom of the food itself. Sure, I enjoy preparing the food with others, working toward a common goal, but to me, the food is window-dressing. Getting everyone together on a day off means you should be able to spend some quality time, and not just talking, but doing something together.
I loved my family reunions and funerals in the past. (Funerals were the only way my dad’s side of the family got together, so they kind of blend into my idea of a family reunion.) There were planned excursions, there were different rooms open, there was movement, there were games, there were chances to go through old photo albums and chances to take new photos. Yes, there was food, but it was kind of like an open buffet for people to eat when they were hungry, not some militarized approach to meal planning. In all of that, though, I miss the games and the sports the most. It was one of the only times when I could get together with enough people who actually wanted to play a game or kick a ball or play catch. That sort of thing engages me. Activities with others bring me joy. And I don’t consider a meal an activity.
Well, all that said, I wasn’t planning on trying to do the in-law Thanksgiving. I had my husband’s full support on this. But, when you say anything like that to the family, you’re bound to hurt some feelings. So, recognizing my little family unit’s complete lack of concern for the traditional Thanksgiving foods, I invited everyone to come to my house this upcoming Saturday, the weekend before Thanksgiving, for a spaghetti luncheon. I knew that spaghetti is easy to make and that my kids would eat it. And then I found out, just the day before my brother called, that no one was going to be able to make it to my get-together* because they were moving my sister-in-law.
Apparently, she decided to move, and rather than hire anyone to move her, she decided to do what she’s always done – ask her family to help her. Now, I have a problem with this. Actually, I think I have a codex of problems with this, but I’ll simplify them here for the sake of brevity.
First, she moves ALL THE TIME. Or at least she’s moved more times than I can actually keep track of. I helped her once. Once. She had nothing packed. She had nothing ready. It wasn’t simply a matter of moving boxes, it was a complete pack and move.
Second, she does not have moving vehicles, nor will she rent them. So, it’s pack everything into someone’s car or cars.
Third, she does not get moving boxes. So, you’re trying to bag things up in giant black garbage bags, of which she has not enough.
Fourth, and most important, she seems to think everyone is still young and spry and able to move her. Well, I put my foot down on this one with my husband. I refused to let him move her again. He’s not getting any younger, and he doesn’t need to risk his health moving anyone, not the least because his job requires a lot of physical strength and ability. Now, when we were all in our 20’s and 30’s, this wasn’t such a big deal. Now, however, almost everyone who is helping her move** is 50 years old or older. That’s the time you sit back and think, If this move is really that important to me, then it’s important to budget in some movers.
Fifth, most of the time recently, she’s moving in the same apartment complex. I have no words for this.
Okay, so if you move as often as you change underwear, you should budget for it as an entertainment expense or something. I mean, you should just put a little aside each month in your moving fund and figure that you’ll just hire out the labor. Now, some of you might say that movers are too expensive, especially when you’ve got a history of getting your family to move you for free. My response? Shop around. Look for cute college undergrads working as movers. Then hire them, pour yourself a glass of wine, and sit back and enjoy the view.
*Yippee! We’re off the hook for having to host anyone this year! My husband and I both did a happy dance after the initial reaction of feeling spurned.
**I’m not helping her. Neither is my husband.