As a child, I was surrounded by drama. My parents were very low-income, but my dad, although low paid, had a prestigious job and had to keep up appearances. He always had a good suit, a fairly new car, and Mom had to have new dresses for events they attended. Their friends were all middle-class lawyers, nurses, accountants and other types of executives. Because of their lack of money while living that middle-class lifestyle, they were stressed out and fought frequently. They also took their stressful conditions out on my brother and me.
Both of my parents had alcoholism in their families. My mom’s dad ended up dying in a gutter somewhere in Hempstead, L. I. after being homeless for years. She also had four Irish brothers who were rough and tumble working class alcoholics. My dad’s family were French-Canadian and were also hard drinkers, but it wasn’t as overt. However, at Dad’s family gatherings, as more and more alcohol was consumed, there was always at least one fist fight, usually between one of my uncles and a cousin close to his age. Another cousin, his sister, would faint when the fists started flying. So, we were always guaranteed two dramas at the same time. I’d learned how to be invisible by that time from the uncertainty and violence in my home and in school. I’m still quite good at not being noticed. People often think I’m a snob, but they don’t understand that I’m still frightened off easily. It’s hard to grow up not knowing when the violence will break out.
So, back to the present. There was the potential for a dramatic Thanksgiving this year due to unresolved issues in the extended family. I should explain. Once you are in my family, I consider you family for life. The caveat is, if you blow it repeatedly, I’m done. I believe in giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, however there is a limit to my patience. That said, I arrived at Thanksgiving dinner secure in the knowledge that one of the two people feuding would not be attending. Imagine my surprise when I arrived to see both parties already there. Hoping that things would go off without a hitch, I greeted everyone and stuck close to the member of that duo that is my blood relation, hoping to diffuse any situations that might come up. Unfortunately, the other party was crafty and waited until anyone who might have put a stop to any inappropriate remarks was out of the room and stirred up the pot. Of course, I learned of it immediately but hadn’t witnessed it, so I was in a bind.
Every year, I ask everyone at the table what they’re thankful for. Mine this year was, after explaining my thoughts about family, “I am thankful that we can all come together as a family, despite any differences we may have and show each other kindness and understanding.” There was a brief uncomfortable silence. There wasn’t much else I could do at that time without creating more drama, but the offending person has crossed the line too many times and will not be invited back into the fold until I can see some kind of substantial change and an apology for trying to use a family gathering to further his agenda.
I love being the matriarch of the family!