It was a Thanksgiving Day many years ago, I was still married to my kid’s Dad. We had the tradition of going over to his family for Thanksgiving dinner. This is the story about what was thankfully, my last Thanksgiving with my husband and his family.
I walked slowly up my sister-in-law’s driveway. I was holding a huge banana pudding, the only dessert my then mother-in-law trusted me enough to make. My mind was racing with excuses. Should I fake a fall in the driveway? Or a stomach ache after dinner started ?
I followed my husband and our two kids through the back door and into the kitchen. The smell of overcooked turkey and neglected cat box immediately hit me. I placed my banana pudding on the washing machine next to my sister in law’s annual gelatinous mystery that no one would eat. The house was very small. And that day, the house is filled to the walls with my in-laws. Everyone was there, the ones I saw regularly and the ones that only seemed to show up when there is food involved. I edged myself sideways through the cramped dining room searching for my husband and kids. I only stopped occasionally to answer the usual questions, “Yes, we’re both still working”, “No we don’t plan on any more kids”, “I haven’t seen him since he got out of jail”, and so on.
I found my husband in a very animated conversation with is brother, who lived in Detroit. His brother’s girlfriend was drunk already and starting to hug people. I thought to myself that this has to be a record; she usually waits until after she has words with my mother-in-law. His last girlfriend would just scream at you when she got drunk this one is affectionate instead. I decide I don’t want a hug and made my way back to the kitchen where my mother in law was chewing out my sister in law because she’s eaten all the skin off the turkey. Just when I had decided to get a stomach ache, my mother in law shouted “Come and get it.”
I found myself shoved aside into the refrigerator by my step-brother in law’s pregnant girlfriend. She announced that both she and the baby are starving. I stood back and watched the relatives descend on the kitchen counter like a pack of wild animals. I suddenly saw husband jockeying for a place in the food line. He got a plate for each of our children. I had yet, and would never learn enough survival skills to hold my own at the buffet line with my in laws. I wait until both the kids have finished eating and announce to my husband that I feel a severe headache coming on. (Which by that time, is no lie).
As I searched for our coats on my sister in law’s bed, I saw my stepbrother in law sitting at the dining room table with his leg raised over his head and a cigarette lighter held to his rear end. He announced proudly that everyone should look because he’s getting ready to “Light One!”. I rushed out of my sister in law’s bedroom with the kid’s coats in my hand. Grabbing each child’s arm in each of my hands I said good bye to all the relatives between the bedroom door and the back door. I lied to my mother in law what fun I had and make a break for the car. On the ride home, I thought of how thankful I am that it is over. And through the magic of divorce and my ex’s affection for other women, I now look forward to the holidays. Secure in the knowledge that when the craziness starts, from now on, I’m the ringleader.