I will echo the same sentiment everyone else has 1,000 times already; I can’t believe it’s Thanksgiving already. I feel like it was only a couple of weeks ago that I was bitching about being so sweaty all the live long day. But yet, here we are. Just days away from me-wrestling-with-Christmas-trees season (wait for it, you’ll see). In the almost 15 years I’ve lived away from my hometown, I’ve only made it home for Thanksgiving a handful of times. Being so close to Christmas, Thanksgiving takes a backseat when prioritizing the use of my ten days of paid time off. But in those 15 years, I’ve never spent Thanksgiving alone. Being the serial monogamist I’ve been up until recently, I usually had a boyfriend’s family to eat with. And in the rare event that I was single on Thanksgiving, I had a friend or three willing to take me in.
Last year, I joined my friend Tina and her family for the holiday. Also in attendance was a cousin from a side of their family that no one really spoke to. But Tina’s mom had run into said cousin earlier that week at a grocery store and invited him to dinner. By the end of the night, it became clear (to me, at least) as to why they may have fallen out of touch with this dude. He made what definitely sounded like a sexual innuendo to Tina and made what I’m pretty sure would qualify as a pass at her sister. Yeah, that’s unfortunate for them and all, but I want to back it up and make this about me for a second. I can’t help but point out that he didn’t hit on me. I’m just saying, I was the only woman under that roof who was not a blood relative and still, nothing. And not even a wink. I swear to God, sometimes I feel like I can’t give this shit away.
But I’ll tell you what: If you want a guaranteed good time, hang out with someone else’s family. Seriously. It’ll put the fun back in dysfunctional, I promise you. Though, be advised: sometimes when hanging out with someone else’s family, you get caught up in the middle of some family dramatics. And because it’s not your family, you don’t always know the best way to navigate the situation.
Take for instance this summer, when I was at the New Jersey shore for the weekend with my friend Reagan at her family’s beach house. On the second night there, there was a big dinner with her entire family, including the family matriarch, Nana. After dinner, most of us were upstairs on the deck, enjoying some adult refreshments, when Reagan commented that maybe we were being rude and should go downstairs to visit with Nana until she left for the evening. Never wanting to be a bad house guest, I was the first one to head down to the living/dining area. Nana and Reagan’s parents were sitting at the dining table and Nana’s 95-year-old man-friend, Maury, was sitting in the living room on the sofa, watching the baseball game with the volume cranked all the way up.
I didn’t feel comfortable sitting in the sound cloud with Maury so instead, I grabbed a chair closer to the dining table. A seat that made me accidentally privy to the conversation taking place at the table. It was about money, quite a bit of money, and it was none of my business. Not that it stopped them from having the conversation. I wanted to leave the room but couldn’t decide what would feel less awkward: sitting motionless and hoping that they didn’t notice that I was in the room or just getting up and walking out, even though that meant making it unmistakable to everyone involved that I had overheard all of the very personal, private matters they were just discussing.
I opted to stand up slowly and tip toe out. I went back upstairs and out to the deck where, low and behold, all of those fools were still standing around, exactly as they were when I’d first left to go downstairs.
“Hey Guys. So, what the F?” I asked. “You said we should go downstairs so I went and nobody followed me. Oh, and your parents are talking to Nana about money. It felt really weird so I came back up here.”
“They are talking about money? What are they asking her about? We should go downstairs,” Reagan said to her uncle, who was also hanging out on the deck.
The whole gang went downstairs. Things escalated very quickly. Soon, the whole house was in on this discussion, much to the chagrin of Reagan’s parents, and things were getting loud. At one point, I heard someone exclaim quite dramatically, “Well, I guess I know where I stand.” Meanwhile, Maury hasn’t moved a muscle and was still staring at the blaring baseball game as if nothing else was happening. I quickly decided that my services weren’t required for any of this so I quietly took myself back upstairs. The guest room where I’d be staying was being occupied by another house guest making a phone call. Looking for a place to lay low, I went across the hall to Reagan’s room, the large master bedroom. Without bothering to turn on the light, I laid down on the edge of the bed closest to the door and took out my phone. I figured it was as good a time as any to catch up on my Ok Cupid correspondence.
As I was laying in the dark, trolling the internet for romantic disappointment, I heard someone come into the room and go directly into the ensuite bathroom and close the door behind them. The bed was to the left of the door and the bathroom to the right, so the person walking into the bathroom didn’t walk past me to get there. Then the bathroom door swung open, light off, and the person left the room. And then it happened again a minute later, same sequence: in the bedroom door, straight into the bathroom, door close, lights on, lights off, door open, leave the bedroom. Then a third time. Only this time, after coming out of the bathroom, whoever it was turned on a table lamp on the far side of the room.
It was Reagan’s mother. She had her back to me and was on her knees on the opposite side of the room packing up the bag she had brought with her when she arrived earlier that day. She was talking to herself, clearly upset by the discussion taking place downstairs, and she very clearly didn’t realize she wasn’t alone in the room. I laid on the bed quietly, again trying to make the decision on how to best remove myself from the situation and spare myself the wildly uncomfortable and awkward exchange. Particularly because this woman, while very kind, was a Chatty Cathy. I knew that if and when she saw that I was in the room with her, she was going to want to talk it out. She was going to give me an earful on a subject I wanted to know nothing about. There was no way to actually leave the room without her seeing or hearing me. I decided my best course of action was to hide. The only place to hide was on the floor on the opposite side of the bed. The king-sized bed. It was so far away, but I had no choice. I had to roll for it.
Very quietly I rolled over, a full 360 degrees, and then froze, looking back to see if she had heard anything. Nope, still feverishly packing away. I did it again: one full rotation, my arms down at my sides, and then looked back. Still packing, her back still facing me. I did a couple more rolls and looked back. Talking to herself and packing. I rolled all the way to the far side of the bed until there was nowhere else to go. From there, I aimed to quietly lower myself onto the floor, like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible. But the bed was a little higher off the floor than I’d expected. What was meant to be a slow and controlled lowering of my body to the floor was more of a clunky free-fall flop. I landed on a water bottle someone had left on the floor, the cap of which driving directly into my sternum. The sound of crunching of plastic made my landing less than stealthy. I held my breath in the hopes of making less noise. I heard her pause for a moment in the conversation she was having with herself but then got right back to it.
I, an adult woman in her thirties, laid on the floor motionless, hiding from her friend’s mother for over ten minutes. Eventually Reagan came looking for me. She walked into the room, calling my name. I popped up from behind the bed, as if it were a completely normal thing to do. And she didn’t skip a beat, as if finding me hiding on the floor, in the dark in her bedroom was a totally normal thing to have happen. Her parents had left for the night and had taken Nana with them. The drama had ended, at least for one evening. We had some good laughs about the whole thing and spent the remainder of our evening exchanging stories of lunacy starring our respective families. Good times, truly.
Wherever you go this week, whoever you spend the day with-be it your crazy family or someone else’s-I hope your holiday is full of friends, family, food, and more than a few good laughs.
Happy Thanksgiving, Fools! Hugs and high fives!