I spent this Thanksgiving with my mother, my father, my brother, my dog and my cat in our house in the suburbs with its white picket fence. My brother flew in from Texas to spend the holiday with us. While my mom prepared Thanksgiving dinner, my brother and I watched The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade followed by The Purina Dog Show. As my brother snuggled the dog and cat I told him he should have been a veterinarian instead of a doctor.
My parents argued over how to serve the turkey and my mom was driven crazy by a mysterious beeping sound, the source of which took a while to find. We took those snafus in stride though, as they’re pretty par for the course. When my brother was a kid he was given a school assignment that involved describing his family’s Thanksgiving routine. He wrote that before his mother prepared the meal she covered the fire alarms with tinfoil.
Once we discovered that the beeping noise was coming from the oven we gathered around the table to enjoy our meal. It was a meal that included turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, asparagus and a dish my brother and I dubbed ‘junky corn mush’ as children. Dessert was pumpkin pie with whipped cream. We reminisced about the past, we pondered the future and we enjoyed the present. My dad promised to sweep the leaves off the porch later and my mom reminded him that next week he needed to bring her to the train station.
After we finished the meal we squeezed together on the sofa, smiled and took a family selfie. Then we turned on the television and laughed over a sitcom together.
We’re like the perfect, stereotypical Norman Rockwell portrait of a loving, cookie cutter family. Except for one small detail: My parents have been separated for twenty- five years and divorced for sixteen of those years.
The mom in this portrait recently left her second husband and now has a significant other in Chicago. The dad has a significant other in France who has two teenage children of her own and is around the same age as his daughter from his first marriage. The child of the mom’s second husband died of a drug overdose. The son in this portrait is a Trump supporter. Anyone who’s a regular reader of this blog knows that the daughter has some pretty severe mental health issues.
The dog is currently at the center of a custody battle between the mother and her second husband. The cat- well, I guess the cat has the cleanest record of us all but he did begin life as a stray and has a chunk missing from his ear to prove it.
For the past 15 years or so my brother and I have gone to Connecticut with our father to spend Thanksgiving at my sister’s house, while my mother spent the holiday with our stepfather’s family. This Thanksgiving was her first Thanksgiving after leaving my stepfather. She didn’t want to spend Thanksgiving alone so we decided the four of us would celebrate Thanksgiving 2017 as ‘the original gang’ in her new house (That she shares with me. Another mark against the daughter is that she’s failed to become an independent adult.)
My dad was already well acquainted with our new house. In fact he paid for half of it. Sure, he was a little frustrated the last time he bought my mother and me a house so we could escape my stepfather and we returned a month later (right after our last dog died tragically and unexpectedly) but he was willing to take the risk again. This time we would be living closer to him. To my father family is everything.
It means a lot to all four of us actually. Life didn’t turn out as planned for any of us. We’ve never been the most conventional family and we’ve had our fair share of conflicts with each other but through all the hardships, hospitalizations, deaths and divorces life has thrown our way we’ve been there for each other. That is something to be thankful for.
Besides, sometimes even when life throws you lemons and curveballs, even when it breaks your heart and fractures your family and becomes abnormal in a thousand different ways, in the end you still get to enjoy a lovely holiday with your first husband, your pigeon pair of children and your color coordinated pair of pets in your cozy little house with a white picket fence in the suburbs. Just ask my mother.