One Awkward Thanksgiving Revelation

Scenes from our Thanksgiving: Turkey Hats, lots o' wine, square pies & some creative magnet wordplay 

Ho Ho Ho, the holiday season is upon us! I adore this time of year, from Thanksgiving week through the New Year. It just feels so festive and cheerful and warm. I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, I know I did.

As I mentioned last week, my family came to spend the weekend with me in Brooklyn. We’re big on traditions, we Hobags, especially when it comes to the holidays. Every Christmas we get matching pajama sets, and put the same decorations in the same spots. On Christmas Morning we each sit in our designated chair to open gifts and then we have an egg casserole. Years and years and years ago we had twice baked potatoes as part of our Christmas Eve dinner (a dinner we’ve shared with the same family friends for over 25+ years!) and somehow they became a most imperative part of the holiday. We eat Twice Bakeds with every Christmas Eve meal, whether they fit in on the menu or not. They’re nearly as important to Christmas as Santa Clause it.

We might be a little nuts.

But we can adapt, too. One of my favorite new-ish traditions is our quiet, nomadic Thanksgiving meal. Despite our insanity over keeping things the same for Christmas, we’ve never really had a set Thanksgiving plan. When I was very young we used to travel to visit my mom’s extended family in a gorgeous, sprawling old farmhouse in upstate New York. After my parents divorced when I was in high school, my siblings and I did a few years of Thanksgivings at our Dad’s house, other years we ate at home or with local family in Pennsylvania. Then the first year I lived in Brooklyn, five years ago, my tiny immediate family – my mom, brother and sister – came up to me. We cooked in my little kitchen and walked around New York City. We attempted to see the Macy’s Parade balloons but couldn’t stand the crowd, so we ditched the madness and got a drink somewhere warm. The next year we repeated, this time in my brother’s new Brooklyn apartment, just ten blocks from mine. The year after, Boulder, Colorado, where my sister was doing a year of Americorps, then to Chicago where my brother had just moved for LawSchool, a year back home in PA and then this year, in my newest Brooklyn pad. Though the location changes we still do have our rituals: eggs & bacon & cinnamon buns for breakfast, Macy’s Parade on TV and a long afternoon walk. Maggie always mashes the potatoes, Michael starts singing in a Russian accent (don’t ask), Mom makes a pumpkin pie, I make apple. A few years back we added our Turkey Hats to the mix. Wine is consumed, pants are unbuttoned, board games are played. I love it so.

It’s not all perfect, though. As with all families, we have snits and spats and one of us, I won’t mention any names, could be anyone, but it’s definitely me, always snaps. This year, despite the jolly happiness and pleasantry, I was a bit on edge. Whenever my mom comes to visit I get a little anxious – I love having her and we get along great (mostly!) but I become overwhelmed by a weird feeling of being in between. As I get older (and older, and older, and oh, my hip!) I have this desperate want to be an “adult,” whatever that means and to “have it all together,” again, whatever that means.  But it is hard to be a totally-together adult when your mama buys the turkey and stuffs it and generally runs the show. My mom (love her!) has a bit of a control-freak streak in her and she blessedly passed it on to her first born, me. So there inevitably ends up being some tension over who’s in charge. Instead of relaxing and going with the flow, two things I have never done and don’t see happening anytime soon, I become overwhelmed with anxiety to make things perfect and prove to my mom that I’m all grown up. Instead of seeing her as awesome and helpful, I see her as overbearing and bossy. Her innocuous attempts to help make things easier (“use wax paper to roll out the pie dough!” “chill the bowl for the whipped cream before whipping!”) become cruel criticisms about my ability to do things right and attacks on  my personality. I simmer and seethe and then at about 3 PM, have a mild hysterical meltdown and start barking at people.

Not all traditions are charming and quaint!

It’s weird though, navigating this time in our lives. As you all recall, I wrote extensively on the strange feeling of being late-twenties, of straddling childhood and adulthood, not sure which way to go. Having my mom around always exacerbates this feeling in me and sends me into a complete frenzy. Don’t worry, I ain’t mad at her – I realize I’m totally bonkers.

One thing I’m realizing though, despite my purported devil-may-care attitude towards turning (gulp!) twenty-eight, I’m actually a little obsessed with trying to grow up and mature and stop being such a goofball. I recently heard from someone that I’d been criticized behind my back for being too flaky. My first thought, hearing that, was no fucking kidding, that’s kiiiind of my shtick.  But the more I ruminated on it the more I let it bug me. I AM flaky! And while I clearly get a kick out of being a hot mess, I still sometimes year to not be so…me. I tried so hard to make my house a home for my family to visit – I bought fresh flowers and scented candles and stocked up on toilet paper, what foresight! – but when we went to make pies, we realized I had no pie pans. We made square pies in casserole dishes (ok, adorable) and when I made my classic apple pie I screwed up the crust so bad I had to pitch a batch and made such a mess with the flour and dough that I had to vacuum the dining room.  These are such tiny little things but are so classically, well, me. I’d love to be the kind of person who makes perfect pies or always has a clean house or knows what kinds of dishes to have on hand for all sorts of occasions. I’d love to pay my bills on time, to have just ONE pair of tights without a run in them, and matching Tupperware sets. I’d love to be the kind of person who remembers to send birthday cards and knows how to act at parties but guess what, world, I ain’t.

And I’m thankful for that! How dull that must be. How stressful it must be to keep it up. And how totally boring this blog would be. The internet is crammed to the gills with what I call Bullshit Blogs (here’s one gleaming example), blogs by girls who portray themselves as "real" girls who just happen to have perfect, fashionable, non-flaky lives full of circular pie pans and beautiful homes and fishtail braid hairdos and DIY glitter centerpiece craft projects and to these girls I call bullshit! You may have a stocked closet and a deft hand with the glue gun but do you have fun? Do you laugh at yourself? Do you go anywhere without posing for photos with your Canon DSLRMNOP Top of the Line Digital Camera? Probably not. Your life may look perfect, but mine is a flaky, ridiculous mess and I love it. So there.

No one remembers perfect holidays and I don’t think anyone looks back at age 89 and remembers what a delightful Grown Up Thanksgiving they once had. Messy holidays are the best ones.

So adding to last week’s silly list: I’m thankful for square pies, for a patient, amazing mom who gives me love and guidance and treats me like an adult, even while I’m throwing an eight-grade-style hissy fit. I’m thankful for a brother who sacrificed his usual fast, eight-mile runs for slow short jogs with me this weekend, where we could catch up on life. I’m thankful for a sister who mashes a mean potato and watches just as much Hulu as I do and knows just how much icing to put on each individual Pillsbury cinnamon bun. I’m very thankful for Pillsbury as a corporation. Is there a better sound than the POP! of the biscuit tin? I’m thankful for Trivial Pursuit, even though I always lose (what I lack in brains, I make up for in looks, obviously) and for vacuums that allow for easy flour clean-up and for expandable waistbands and for crazy, obsessive adherence to tradition. And I’m thankful for Bullshit Blogs and for overhearing the occasional personality critique because they remind me to take a step back and take it all in – to appreciate my life for what it is and stop trying so hard to get it all together.

I think I’ve just made a New Year’s Resolution a few weeks early!

So from my disaster of a house to yours, whatever state it might be in: Happy Holidays!

Xoxo

Liz Ho Ho Ho