FEATURE — Thanksgiving is full. Of gratitude. Of turkey. Of pies and potatoes and gravy. Not to mention stuffing and yams and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.
Thanksgiving is full of people, too. Lots and lots of people. People as varied as the side dishes that fill our tables. Some we like – and others not so much. I mean, we can’t all be stuffing. Some of us are Jell-O salad with raisins. Or green bean casserole. Or even those weird pearled onions my mother-in-law always served.
When I was 16, one of my favorite cousins brought a group of friends to my parent’s house for Thanksgiving. They were all single professionals in Los Angeles without family around and my mom was the consummate hostess, Thanksgiving or otherwise; she made delicious food and was always welcoming.
After a morning full of cooking and an afternoon full of eating, the group at large started succumbing to the effects of the tryptophan. So, one by one, people made their ways to beds and couches and cozy nooks.
As the clinking silverware and laughter gave way to the quiet, I made my way to my bedroom. I couldn’t wait to crawl under the weight of my heavy duvet comforter and drift off to oblivion.
But as soon as I entered my room, I stopped short. My bed was already occupied by the least favorite of my cousin’s friends, a blonde with sharp edges who’d ruffled my teenage emotions earlier.
To make matters worse, the Goldilocks of sorts had also taken the liberty of sleeping in my bed without her pants. And in only her thong underwear.
There are not many things more horrifying to a teenage girl than a stranger sleeping half naked in her bed. Unless, of course, it’s newlyweds taking over your bed for the Christmas holiday. Which also happened and was slightly more horrifying. But only slightly.
I complained later to my mother, after she’d awoken from her nap, that my Thanksgiving had been ruined by the incident. I’m sure my communication was embarrassingly punctuated by dramatic hand gestures, head rolling and sulking.
As Utah’s own Marjorie Hinckley famously said, “Home is where you are loved the most and act the worst.” I’d add, especially when you are hormonal, 16 and tired.
The experience of the half-naked Goldilocks has stuck with me over the years. With the wisdom of age, I am sure the sharp blonde meant no harm or disrespect. But at the time, I was sure she meant both.
Back then, I looked on her as an intruder. An intruder in my bed. An intruder in my home. And an intruder in my Thanksgiving.
I didn’t know she’d recently experienced a break-up and was licking her wounds. I hadn’t thought to ask.
And I didn’t realize that her seminude napping was less an afront to me and more an indication of how welcome and comfortable she felt in my family’s home. How welcome and comfortable my mother helped her feel as a relative stranger with a sore heart.
Remember how Thanksgiving is full? Of turkey and stuffing and gravy and pies. Of people. And of gratitude. That’s true even when we aren’t always grateful in the moment for all the people we find around our table.
American poet and essayist Mary Karr said of families: “A dysfunctional family is any family with more than one person in it.”
Perhaps, then, it could be said that a dysfunctional Thanksgiving is any Thanksgiving with more than one person at it.
And while I’m pretty sure a Thanksgiving of one means less dysfunction, and certainly no Goldilocks nappers, it can surely mean more loneliness. And less of everything.
So, this Thanksgiving, here’s to a little dysfunction in the name of warmth and fullness. Oh, and pass that Jello-O salad.
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