Thursday, November 27, 2008

Live, from Nowhere, It's Thanksgiving!

I want to start by saying that the thing I'm most grateful for in my life is Ev. One of the reasons I'm so grateful for her is that she has given me the space and the encouragement to peel away a lot of surface gunk and be more honestly who I am, and she doesn't love me less for it ... she loves me more. That's a completely foreign idea to me, and it's taken me awhile to really believe it, but I like it ... a lot.

The most recent layer of gunk to be peeled away has to do with the Performance Art that was Thanksgiving in my family. All holidays, really, but Thanksgiving is where it really shone in all it's sick and twisted glory, because there were no gifts or other distractions ... it was all about the formidable force known as Mother.

Last week I finally confessed my dirty little secret ... I hate Thanksgiving. It fills me with performance anxiety and I turn into a kitchen nazi. In my mind it's eight hours of cooking, followed by 15 minutes of eating, followed by two hours of cleaning it up. I wake up pre-stressed about that last minute rush to get the potatoes mashed, the gravy made and the rolls out of the oven so everything comes to the table warm and together. I'm annoyed when the kids eat everything on the relish tray before dinner. I'm just not lovable on Thanksgiving.

Ev and her kids do Thanksgiving easily and they love it. Obviously they didn't get the memo that Thanksgiving is not supposed to be fun. They cook at a leisurely pace, they don't care when they eat, they don't worry about whether every little thing is perfect and they goof around together on Thanksgiving. My mother would be appalled.

My mother did Thanksgiving like she did everything else ... perfectly ... and she did it mostly alone, while entertaining the audience in her kitchen. No one helped cook because no one else did it "right" (except my dad, who was in charge of mashing the potatoes because she'd taught him how). This allowed her to take all the credit and also complain afterward that no one helped.

The only Thanksgiving dinner she missed cooking was the year my sister was born ... on Thanksgiving day. You can bet your ass if she'd been born the day before, or the day after, my mother would have cooked dinner. She shone brightest under extremes of hardship. This was epitomized the year she prepared and served Thanksgiving dinner for twelve, in her robe and pajamas, one week after a radical mastectomy. And it was perfect.

Not only can I not meet her standards, I don't even want to. And it's the "not wanting to" that makes me feel guilty. It's one thing to try and fail, because at least you tried. It's another thing entirely to not bother to try. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I heard that in my life. So, for me, to sit here on the couch not lifting a finger while the minutes tick by is fraught with anxiety.

But I'm determined that this is going to be the Thanksgiving when I beat that demon. Ev and her kids are going to do Thanksgiving at Carrie's house this year and my only job is to show up and eat ... and I'm going to do it that way if it kills me.

3 comments:

Jazz said...

Ya know, Ev has it right. What the hell's the point in being thankful for stress. We don't much do thanksgiving here, Christmas is more the biggie, but I just don't care. My mother in law spends days preparing and it's great but there's no way I'm going to do that. Last year we had Christmas (or maybe new years) at the cottage with her and she was freaking out because it was noon and I was stil in my pjs. She HAD to take control. I let her. I can't be bothered - and even if she hadn't taken control, dinner for the 8 people coming would've been fine. Obviously nowhere near perfect, but we would've had fun and the guests would be to polite to complain. Besides they keep coming back so Mr. Jazz and I must be doing something right.

Whew... that was longwinded.

xup said...

Like Jazz said, Christmas is the big stress-fest in this neck of the woods. My mother had us all mental by the time the blessed day rolled around, too. Even now that she's old and not really up to it, she insists on cooking. Last year we all sat around the living room having fun while she freaked out in the kitchen and then got sick for the next 2 days, swearing up and down that she was never cooking Christmas dinner again. "Hurrah" we all shouted...about bloody time. We'll see what happens this year

Angie said...

You are so lucky to have Ev and she is lucky to have you. To be able to peel those layers away and be who you truly are with no repercussions or worries you won't be good enough - that's what we all need.

I hope the day went well and you were able to keep the stress level low. Hell, just having to show up to eat? Yeah!