My two daughters and I went to my brother’s house for Thanksgiving. In attendance were: my parents, my brother, his wife, their two kids (both teens), her parents, both of her brothers, one with his wife and two sons (teen and tween), the other with his wife and baby son (until it was time for her to leave and go upstate to her parent’s house where she really wanted to be), one of her two sisters and her husband, and the son of the other sister (who spent the holiday with her boyfriend—“when will she get the ring?” was the question of the day, and his young daughter). It was a full house. Oh, and a teen friend.
In accordance with tradition, my sister-in-law cooked far too much delicious food. Let’s just say that she had an entire 14-pound turkey that was not even carved as part of her leftover feast.
One brother-in-law regaled us with stories of his eating adventures in China. These included: leeches, dog, and (I think) monkey brains. But he did have some insight into more than just his food forays when he said that he wanted to give these impoverished “restaurateurs” a $20 tip for serving him the best meal he had in China in their extremely bare home/restaurant. First he told them (through his employee, who was taking him around the country) that it was a wonderful meal. As part of their thank you, they gave him three bottles of bottled water (which, he said, are very expensive there). When pressed, his employee told him that he couldn’t give the $20 to them since they wouldn’t be able to give him anything in return, and that would be unbearable to them. I, of course, joked that he could take one of their children who were sleeping on a plywood slab on the dirt floor. That broke the levity, but it was a moment of insight into the importance of self-respect and what it means to give, and to give back.
When he and his wife left, the news fluttered out that he just found out that he has cancer.
One of the sister-in-laws told me that her parents, in their early and mid-80’s are not doing well and that she spends her days tending to them, and her sisters tend to them on the weekends.
And my sister-in-law’s parents looked better than last year, but they’re both suffering from a medical book of illnesses.
And my parents are starting to look frailer.
It was weird, all of the “children” are in our 40’s and 50’s; our children are teens, going to college, applying to college, or heading into high school; and our parents, somehow, became our grandparents. We all moved up a rung on the ladder, and we are now in a position of responsibility (at least in regards to our families). We are who we are. While I still have illusions of grandeur, I am also this divorced woman, who is a teacher, who lives in the suburbs, who says “uh huh” and “oh, I’m sorry” much more often than I am consulted on issues related to girl’s self-esteem, women’s need to not listen to men and their lectures unless they offer a few lectures of their own, and how to break the cycle of control and abuse.
Family gatherings, a time to gather and to gather insight. Also a time to quiet the discontent and simply flourish being with people who love you because you are family, and since we have been family for so long, we are all related to the first degree (us Italians and Jews, it’s all the same by now).
(Oh, and I’m thankful that mr ex isn’t around to make any snide comments about anyone. It truly is liberating not to have an arrogant man around.)
(I just wrote “snide comments, and a woman at the next table in Panera’s said “snide comment” about ten seconds later. The universe is an interesting place.)