Welcome to Ask April, a no-nonsense advice column focusing on what it is you can do to correct things that need correcting. While we all know much in life is out of our control, and sometimes, our reaction is all we CAN control- we really do have a lot of personal power, thankfully. Our will is just as important as the wills of others around us, and while we need to be considerate, we also need to make sure others are equally considerate of us. It is my hope that when you write in to me, asking advice, that I can help you make a good decision that somehow improves whatever situation you’ve found yourself in. As with anything I share, I recommend people don’t automatically take my word for anything, but include my advice in with the rest of the things that help them make a decision. I wish you well. Read on.
This is Observational Wisdom.
It’s 1:26 A.M. Thanksgiving 2017, and I have finished prepping today’s Thanksgiving feast. It’s a Southwestern Chicken Chili, and chicken enchaladas using an heirloom Mexican recipe where I reconstitute dried chilis to make the sauce. I substituted bell peppers for tomatoes because one friend coming has an allergy and the flour to thicken the chili was gluten free for another allergy. There will not be ham because one friend does not eat pork, and there are few sweets because the folks attending are not big on desserts. We don’t drink the conventional things like soda, or iced tea, so I’ll brew coffee, and hot tea, and open a chilled bottle of Moscato.
I have no idea what my friends will be bringing.
I hate having the turkey dinner twice only one month apart for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m not big on the spiral hams either. Some years, we have turkey for Thanksgiving, and go out for Chinese on Christmas. One year, I made jambalaya for Christmas after the turkey for Thanksgiving, and this year, it’s the above mentioned Mexican food extravaganza. Yes, Christmas will likely be turkey.
There may be four of us, and there may be another two folks coming, I won’t know until 4 P.M. today.
I won’t use fine china, because we don’t have any, and my dinner napkins have seen better days. The bowls I will use are mismatched, and one of the chairs at the table has a wobbly leg.
I’ve served unconventional meals at holidays, and done so for two decades now.
More people are being less traditional with Thanksgiving. Some are calling it “Friendsgiving” as they potluck with friends instead of family.
Every generation breaks some traditions to forge new ones. For me, it wasn’t because I was deliberately trying to be unconventional. It was mostly due to the fact I had to almost always work the holiday, and the Friday and weekend after. I have no children to spoil, and no family to spoil me.
Some people cite horrendous Thanksgivings growing up, where everybody fought, and it triggers the bad memories, and heartbreak as reason to shun traditions at holiday time. Some people are ashamed of Thanksgiving, and feel it oppressed Indigenous peoples and ought to be done away with entirely. Some people have dietary restrictions or food allergies, and can’t go eat because hosts refuse to accommodate their needs.
Then, there are the people like me who have the Betty Crocker dream, and have looked at too many Normal Rockwell paintings, but can never seem to have it. I fantasize about the fancy dining room with the “good tablecloth, and matching napkins”. I want to have so much family coming, I have to put the table extender in, and I want so many kids to come, I have to have a special table just for them. I want to make dinner in time to get changed into a good dress after I take off a fancy apron, and check my hair right before everybody starts arriving. I want a house that is spectacular, and to send everybody home with leftovers, hugs, full stomachs, and that they can’t wait to come back for Christmas.
In reality, the dog and cat begged all day while I cooked, and the dog is going to climb all over everybody at Thanksgiving Mexican food night. I wished a loved one Happy Thanksgiving, and was lectured about how it is all about the murder of Native Americans, and the conversation ended with him refusing to talk to me anymore, and me in tears. My aunt said she might come, and when I messaged to follow up to see for sure, she ignored my text, still has not responded, and she is person #6 who I am praying comes. I know she won’t come, and I am going to cry over that too. I did get 90% of all food prep and cooking done just before I sat down to write this, but I won’t put a nice dress on tomorrow, and I won’t do my hair because I am battling depression right now and I don’ give a flying fuck what I look like.
Instead of a beautiful table, I have the above mentioned hot mess of a table, but cleanup will be easy, and there will be plenty of leftovers. My husband will drive my friend who busses over here home because she has to work tomorrow, and I will stay at home so I don’t have a panic attack in the car like I did last year when we took her home.
Despite these things that are painful, I am still very thankful.
I can make Thanksgiving dinner, and even though I fucking forgot to check my spices- and Ted has to run go buy more- we have food, and I am good at cooking it- and Meijer was open with my spices!
Although I don’t have the “perfect” Norman Rockwell style family coming, I have damned close loved ones coming who I am so happy to have in my life, and I would not trade them for the World.
I can’t drive or ride in the car to take my friend home, but I have a husband who will, and my friend was in the car last year, saw me lose my fucking mind- AND SHE IS STILL MY FRIEND ANYWAYS.
I don’t have my dream house, but I cleaned the whole thing today for company. It looks the best it can, wobbly chair leg, mismatched bowls, and all.
There will be a good meal, good conversation, and my husband looks forward to a four-day weekend.
May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, with all your blessings.