For many people Thanksgiving can be Excedrin Headache #24, which — by the way — coincides with the date of this year’s Thanksgiving. They have to clean house, carve some money from the family budget, shop, cook for a hungry horde, serve the horde and clean up after them. Some hosts and hostesses will have to get up bright and early the morning after Thanksgiving and go to work.
If you are not the family hosting the Thanksgiving get-together, then, chances are, that you will have to make something to bring to the dinner, drive for an hour or two, and get together with the relatives — some you had hoped would stay home this year.
Then there are your two sisters. Sister Number One divorced her husband who summarily went and married Sister Number Two. Predictably, there will be that drama at the Thanksgiving table. Your kids will break Aunt Agnes’ crystal Mikasa ashtray, and your oldest child will invariably ask Uncle Harry why he hasn’t found a job yet (it’s been 10 years). Everyone will act like they like each other, and the day will drag on.
Time Sanitizes the Memory
After the oldest members of your family have passed on, the same people who hated Thanksgiving will look back nostalgically on those get-togethers as pleasant, meaningful family times. And maybe, in retrospect, they were. They seem to forget about Uncle Olaf making Aunt Edith cry at the table and the glasses of milk their children accidentally tipped over on Aunt Catherine’s linen tablecloth. They will fondly remember the new babies and the Butterball turkeys and the cherry pies topped with real whipped cream for dessert.
But, while they were creating these family memories, they weren’t having the time of their lives.
Tips for Surviving Thanksgiving with the Relatives
- Delegate, delegate, delegate! Have one person bring the potatoes and another person the green bean casserole and another the cherry and pumpkin pies. Most hostesses also hold jobs outside the home and may even have to go to work the next morning. The last thing you should do is make your hostess shoulder the entire burden. Gather your teenagers and pay them $10 each to help you clean the hostess’s house and help her get ready for Thanksgiving. It would be awfully nice if all she had to do was prepare the turkey and the stuffing.
- Think outside the box. If it is your year to host Thanksgiving, consider making a reservation at a nice restaurant and going out to dinner on Thanksgiving. You can eat turkey and later make a small turkey at home for the feeling of leftovers. I started doing this after one particularly disastrous year when I hosted Thanksgiving at my house. I had come down with the flu and had to houseclean, cook and cleanup with no help from anyone. I was so sick that I just left the dishes sitting on the counter and went to bed. I had to go to work the next morning (I had a new job) and felt like death for the entire week. It took me four days to finish all of the Thanksgiving dishes. The following year, I instituted the “out-to-dinner” plan for subsequent Thanksgivings.
- While traveling to your Thanksgiving destination, bring games and snacks to tame the children’s appetites on the way there. This way, you’ll arrive happy.
- If you have relatives who irritate you every time you get together with them, avoid them at all costs. Ignore their barbs and don’t let them phase you. They may come loaded for bear, but you do not have to engage with them. Think of them as being put there for your entertainment. Sometimes happiness has to be a decision, long before it ever reaches the feeling level. Mean-spirited relatives don’t have to drive you over the edge. Look at Thanksgiving as a day to practice self-control and forgiveness.
- If you are pressed for time, order the entire Thanksgiving dinner from your local market. Pick it up on Thanksgiving morning. You don’t have to tell anyone that you didn’t actually prepare the meal yourself, and you will appear organized as all get-out.
Create Good Memories
Thanksgiving is a day to count your blessings and enjoy your family. Practice building bridges on Thanksgiving, instead of blowing them up. If one of your relatives engages in drama, remove yourself from it or do something to try and dissipate it. Start this year to begin accumulating good Thanksgiving memories.