This was not my family’s Thanksgiving. I don’t know that this has ever been my family at Thanksgiving. But it’s the picture many of us hold in our minds of what family gatherings “should” look like.
As my parents age, and particularly my Mom, she becomes more vocal about how much she would like to see us be her vision of family when we get together. I suspect it’s one of her personal “measures of success”, perhaps as a parent or maybe just as a person. I know I catch myself occasionally looking for that ideal to affirm my own sense of accomplishment.
I’m pretty sure my Mom never had a Thanksgiving that picture perfect growing up. But I think she remembers it that way. Rose colored glasses and simpler times often shade our memories, especially where our loved ones are concerned. We would love to be able to paint that picture for my Mom, to enact the “perfect” family united.
There are no scripts for that kind of drama. And even if there are, they are often impossible to recreate. For instance I believe my Mother’s scene truly requires a bird she cooked, her stuffing, her wild rice. Except no one else can make it “just right” and it’s really too much for her to do it herself without creating an enormous amount of stress that isn’t part of the picture. I think all that pretty china, silver, and tablecloth get swept up and disappear without anyone washing (or breaking) dishes, or doing laundry or getting crumbs on the floor.
The reality of this Thanksgiving was no more “perfect” than any other. The smoke alarms went off when the dressing spilled in the oven. The turkey took an extra hour to cook. Dad made the “wrong” bread (delicious, just not the kind we expected). In the end, though, everything was tasty, everyone had plenty to eat, and there wasn’t a major fight.
We’ll all remember this Thanksgiving as Norman Rockwell perfect. I suppose that’s something to be thankful for.