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Off Topic :
Thanksgiving expectations versus realities


 Superesse (original poster member #60731) posted at 10:10 PM on Friday, November 18th, 2022

A survey, if you like: How many families do you know who seem able to plan and carry out their Thanksgiving Day celebrations successfully most years, versus how many families do you know who, more often than not, during the weeks before Thanksgiving have drama or crises which effectively quash that year's celebration?

I'm asking about repeat occurrences you may have noticed among your circle of friends: Do they generally say it went ok? Do they generally report it got screwed up!?

In my experience of 70 years, I keep planning this annual feast despite almost always having some negative circumstance crop up suddenly just beforehand to scuttle my plans, and I'm talking 'for decades and decades' this has happened. Makes me wonder if it's just getting harder to do this for the majority of people, or just harder for people like myself: older, with no kids?

For me, it started when I was 12 years old with the assassination of JFK in 1963 a couple days before Thanksgiving. Everyone felt horrible, but we figured it was just tragic coincidence. Now, though, this seems the norm in my FOO, as well as for most of my 2nd marriage (for the reason we do not discuss on this forum). Then of course we had the pandemic, when nobody much was feeling thankful or could get together freely.

We tried volunteering at a Salvation Army homeless center on the first Thanksgiving Day after my October D-Day 1, but there were more of us trying to be volunteers than they had homeless to feed! One year, right after my father died, we just went out to eat at a buffet but it was not the same as having the wonderful atmosphere of home cooking. And no leftovers.

A few years later, after more sibling drama, I decided to 'rise above it all' and host a Thanksgiving dinner in our home for people in the community we knew had no money or place to have their own meal. With the pilgrim spirit that started this tradition, I invited families, cooked a really big meal, set tables up...only to have the invited families pull no shows - this happened with different families a couple Thanksgivings in a row! (I believe they thought their presence wouldn't be missed....they weren't from this country, so to them it was 'just a meal.') But yet, it was frustratingly familiar...

This year, it's a sudden crisis with an alcoholic brother in ICU. (His son just got married 8 weeks ago and we had a rare, happy family get-together. Inspired to continue making good memories, I was attempting to organize a holiday get-together at an agreed location for this single brother and his children. One week ago, he checked himself into the hospital for alcohol poisoning and ended up on a ventilator for a week! He just was successfully weaned off of it, so we have reason to BE thankful, yes - but scratch trying to plan a get-together!) My father was also a heavy drinker who hit bottom at 48. He was healthy as a horse for 40 years after he gave up the booze - except every year, around Thanksgiving, he'd complain he didn't feel good. Wasn't up to celebrating with anyone. Still feeling sorry for his lifeI think, until he died at age 88. Now, I see the same pattern with one of his sons. But I don't know if it's just my family legacy of alcoholism and the 'other word' that brought me here...I find myself wishing I could just fast-forward to March already and not have to go through all the build up and disappointment.

Tell me what you all know about this, and thanks in advance!

posts: 1549   ·   registered: Sep. 22nd, 2017   ·   location: Washington D C area
id 8765859

Lionne ( member #25560) posted at 2:55 AM on Saturday, November 19th, 2022

I always host a Thanksgiving dinner, sometimes on the Friday after. I have NO expectations. I tell people when I am cooking, tell them to let me know the night before how many are coming and cook a lot of food. Some years we have 6-8, some years we have 20. Our previous house was SMALL, but often hosted the biggest crowds.

I never want anyone to be alone on the holidays. If my main family is busy on Thursday, I cook on Friday and find somewhere to do service on Thursday. Since my son was involved in AA I always told him to bring anyone who had difficult family circumstances. We have met, and now consider family, quite a few people that way. One young man was devoted to his mother who had dementia. They came several years and watching him care for her was truly wonderful. One year my son had a colleague from Europe who was here for an extended time working on a project, very technical and very specialized. The conversation was just amazing. (He learned his impeccable English by watching TV and playing video games)

I learned not to expect anything. I do use my matching dollar store dishes with my grandmother's silver because that's what I have the most of. Sometimes the mashed potatoes are great, sometimes they are watery. Sometimes my kids can be there, sometimes they can't. I'll see them another time. And whoever can't come, is welcome for leftovers the next day, whether I'm home or not. I just love it.

Me-BS-65 in May<BR />HIM-SAFWH-68<BR />I just wanted a normal life.<BR />Normal trauma would have been appreciated.

posts: 8516   ·   registered: Sep. 18th, 2009   ·   location: In my head
id 8765897

PricklePatch ( member #34041) posted at 3:35 AM on Saturday, November 19th, 2022

We use to have wonderful Thanksgiving with my family. We are miles away and the people we have/had Thanksgiving with turned out to be disingenuous. Our friends left the area, so it will be me H, DD and her fiancé. God forbid! 2 want Cornish game hens, never made them. I don’t eat meat and my H is good with a turkey leg.

My family now has separate Thanksgivings. My Dad is to high strung to be around the bigger family.

BS Fwh

posts: 3181   ·   registered: Nov. 28th, 2011
id 8765901

 Superesse (original poster member #60731) posted at 3:59 AM on Saturday, November 19th, 2022

Lionne, thank you for sharing. I see from this that your Thanksgiving expectations - though I used the word "plans" in my own story - generally yield a wonderful memory of the true meaning of Thanksgiving! I guess it's possible because people you invite want to be part of your celebration. People make our holiday memories special, don't they?

But the planning for it all to happen is what stumps me, with the last minute crises and cancellations. Grocery shopping ahead of time depends on what we expect we will be doing that day and most of the time, our guest list changes or disappears entirely in the week or 2 before the actual day. Out here in the country, it's like pulling teeth to have friends or family commit to a drive "over the river and through the woods" - even though we're 6 miles from the county seat. My own family is mostly out-of-state, his is all overseas and most of our "local" friends are retiree transplants from elsewhere, who have never become familiar with roads in the county they now call "home." More than a few times, I've been told "I don't like to drive at night out on dark country roads' (this is more of an old age thing) or "I'm afraid I'll get lost." (the women are more likely to say this) or maybe they fear gettting out here and feeling 'stuck' because it gets dark so early? Who knows....Maybe we'd be better planning a Turkey Day Shoot Your Breakfast! 🦃 just kidding! It's crazy. But I think I've just identified one of the main problems: we're older, and all our friends are older than we are!! (Is that it? Or is this happening with every age group, these days?)

Thanks for your comments, and have a particularly blessed celebration next week!

PricklePatch, I hear of many these days who have to plan for multiple celebrations, but if you have any family to invite, that makes it worth the effort to cook, right? (Cornish game hens are sort of like mini-turkeys; but just don't over-cook them or they'll shrivel up to nothingness and end up tough.) Thanks for your comments and have several blessed days next week!

posts: 1549   ·   registered: Sep. 22nd, 2017   ·   location: Washington D C area
id 8765903

leafields ( member #63517) posted at 1:13 PM on Saturday, November 19th, 2022

Pre-A, Thanksgiving was celebrated with XWH'S family and mostly went off without a hitch. One of the siblings lived about 150 miles away, and they may not have always made it due to weather.

XWH moved out of state, and I was looking forward to seeing my ALL for Thanksgiving. Well, guess who is going to be in town? There goes my plans.

I think I'm going to pick up stuff to do turkey gravy over mashed and and rotisserie chicken.

BW M 34years, Dday 1: March 2018, Dday 2: August 2019, D final 2/25/21

posts: 1490   ·   registered: Apr. 21st, 2018   ·   location: Washington State
id 8765920

 Superesse (original poster member #60731) posted at 2:37 PM on Saturday, November 19th, 2022

Yes, that is rough, leafields, but I bet you'd still be welcome if you could stand to join them with him there too. My XSIL came to her son's recent wedding along with her 2nd husband, the man she left my brother for. During his speech as father of the groom, my brother even praised her by name, for having raised their only son so well! I could tell that no one felt awkward to the point we couldn't be nice to her; rather I sensed it was harder on her and her partner than it was for any of the rest of us. Have a blessed Thanksgiving DESPITE it all! Because you want to start new traditions, and it would really suck if this became the pattern, wouldn't it? Stand your ground, I'd say!

posts: 1549   ·   registered: Sep. 22nd, 2017   ·   location: Washington D C area
id 8765936

sisoon ( Moderator #31240) posted at 6:12 PM on Saturday, November 19th, 2022

My parents used to host Thanksgivings, and they were always wonderful. After my dad died in 1996, my mom hosted alone. When she could no longer cook, she took the family out to a restaurant. She died the day before Thanksgiving 2 years ago, and now it's just W, son, and GS and some friends of our son's.

The only expectation that wasn't met is that they used to have giant poker games after dinner, and they told me I could join when I was 13 - and that was the year they stopped playing.

No dramas around Thanksgiving. There were certainly dramas around other holidays, though. My grandmothers were more than a little effed up. smile

fBH (me) - on d-day: 66, Married 43, together 45, same sex ap
DDay - 12/22/2010
Recover'd and R'ed
You don't have to like your boundaries. You just have to set and enforce them.

posts: 27872   ·   registered: Feb. 18th, 2011   ·   location: Illinois
id 8765976

pureheartkit ( member #62345) posted at 12:46 AM on Sunday, November 20th, 2022

A college friends mom solved it this way.

She has an open house party that is 9:30 to 8:30.

There are appetizers all day, nuts, cookies, breads and cold sliced meats and cheeses. Around 4 pm she makes the greenbeans and mashed potatoes and stuffing.

Pies come out around 6.

People come in and out all day. Who shows up is who shows up and it's all good. Neighbors say hi. Not the stress it used to be. By 7pm adults are sitting with drinks or coffee winding down.

Thank you everyone for your wisdom and healing.

posts: 2507   ·   registered: Jan. 19th, 2018
id 8766012

EvenKeel ( member #24210) posted at 1:47 PM on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2022

Once I divorced, Thanksgiving was never the same in the conventional sense. It wasn't all divorced based. My aunt who always hosted passed. My mom has aged-out on it. IE health-wise it is too much for her, etc.

Both of my children are in medical occupations. One lives 5 hours one direction; the other is 4 hours the other way. So I accepted long ago that Thanksgiving will never be traditional again. lol.

Some years it works out. Other years it is me on the couch watching the parade in my jammies. I have learn to appreciate whichever it is for that year.

You are not alone. There are tons of Reels on FB right now finding the humor in Thanksgiving crisis and drama.

posts: 6776   ·   registered: May. 31st, 2009   ·   location: Pennsylvania
id 8766266

The1stWife ( member #58832) posted at 2:14 PM on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2022

We just did a Friendsgiving on Sunday. 25 people for a sit down traditional turkey meal. I’ve never done this before but I made all the food myself (except gravy).

Most family is out of state and don’t travel back anymore. So it was one sibling and the rest were friends we consider family.

We never had much drama (family wise) at the holidays (thank goodness for that). Only issue was getting my mom to allow me to host a holiday instead of her and my dad hosting all the holidays.

But as we age it dies get harder to keep up traditions - people retire and move, most family is now deceased as we age, etc.

I just try to count my blessings.

Survived two affairs and brink of Divorce. Happily reconciled.

posts: 12792   ·   registered: May. 19th, 2017
id 8766270

 Superesse (original poster member #60731) posted at 3:40 PM on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2022

Thanks everyone! I don't feel quite so all alone when others share, whether you usually always have had good or crazy Thanksgivings. Not sure why it helps but just now, it does!

Unfortunately, for us it's shaping up to be yet another holiday tinged with tragedy. Last night, my younger brother (67) was taken off the biPap oxygen mask with his grown children's approval, after they saw his vital signs declining all day and doctors advised his chances. (He'd been weaned from mechanical ventilation several days earlier but wasn't improving, was the explanation we heard).

Still gotta say it was surreal to watch his children, my nieces and nephew, coolly nodding their heads as they made a group decision to let it all happen. Nobody asked my opinion but if they had, I'd have voted I wasn't quite ready to give up on his chance to survive his alcoholic liver know, we always hope and hope some more, when we grow up in an environment with addictions.

I had to say my goodbye to him at 7:30 pm last night and get out of there before they just "pulled the plug." I couldn't bear to witness that. I got a call 90 minutes later from my niece saying he had passed. So now, the kids are all up in air about their Thanksgiving plans, too. Seems like a family tradition getting passed on to the next generation. His newlywed son was going to head up to Maine to join his wife's family for their first Thanksgiving as a married couple. The daughter from Florida may go to her mother's house in this state, and who knows what will be required of us country aunt and uncle between now and Thursday. I'm sure there will be more texts and calls. I bought a small turkey and like all these other years, I'll slog through this somehow. I didn't get the feeling they want to come out here just now, either but the invitation was there. We'll see...

Any suggestions to shake the holiday blues? I know, it's a bad timing thing. But for me, it goes in my scrapbook with so many previous years...I have a memory like an elephant and I'm OLD enough to have too many years on the books!

posts: 1549   ·   registered: Sep. 22nd, 2017   ·   location: Washington D C area
id 8766281

Tanner ( member #72235) posted at 4:53 PM on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2022

We have always done the same thing every year without a problem. Our family is very diverse politically and we all love and respect each other. We do not discuss anything close to that forbidden topic and it always works great for us.

Last year my niece was bringing her new boyfriend to thanksgiving, my Mother texts me an hour before and says "no politics at thanksgiving". I said I absolutely agree. Then I said was I the only one that got the text? She said yes, I asked " have I ever in 30 years said anything? She said "no, I just wanted to warn you. I was so hurt, she not only singled me out, but she made a judgment about me that she knows nothing about.

We backed out last minute at the last minute and went to Applebee’s. We are all good this year and plan on going, we will meet the not so new boyfriend this time 😀

Dday Sept 7 2019 doing well in R
BH M 31 years

posts: 2007   ·   registered: Dec. 5th, 2019   ·   location: Texas DFW
id 8766293

Darkness Falls ( member #27879) posted at 5:58 PM on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2022

H and I don’t have FOO in our state so we spend major holidays with friends. Each family has a holiday or two that they host. Neither Thanksgiving nor Christmas are ours to host, thankfully.. 😅

There has been a year or two with some drama of some sort but for the most part it’s just a nice relaxing day of visiting with each other and watching the kids play.

WS - remarried to BH but not in R

D-day 2010

posts: 6412   ·   registered: Mar. 8th, 2010   ·   location: USA
id 8766305

thisissogross ( member #30294) posted at 6:40 PM on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2022

So sorry about your brother.

i edit frequently because i have to

posts: 374   ·   registered: Dec. 3rd, 2010   ·   location: southern us
id 8766311

zebra25 ( member #29431) posted at 6:44 PM on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2022

Superesse, I'm so very sorry about the loss of your brother.

"Don't let anyone who hasn't been in your shoes tell you how to tie your laces."

D-day April 2010

posts: 3001   ·   registered: Aug. 25th, 2010
id 8766313

PricklePatch ( member #34041) posted at 1:53 AM on Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022


Sorry too hear about your brother. Losing a sibling is difficult anytime, holidays make it sadder. Will keep you in my prayers.

BS Fwh

posts: 3181   ·   registered: Nov. 28th, 2011
id 8766378

HFSSC ( member #33338) posted at 2:25 AM on Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022

First of all, I am so sorry for your loss, Superesse.

Our holidays growing up were always f*cked up. Let’s see, one Christmas my mom’s 2 brothers got in a fight. One had an ax handle and the other a baseball bat. That was really special.

Thanksgiving… I used to host Thanksgiving dinner every year. We have room and a huge dining room table and I really enjoyed it. Whichever of my siblings and/or their adult children were in town would show up, my in laws, assorted friends. But during COVID we had such widely varied opinions about gatherings, masks, etc. that I decided to start working on Thanksgiving day and making double time. This year I can’t even think about it since our ds who just turned 24 is leaving tomorrow morning for basic training.

I’ll end with my very favorite Thanksgiving memory. It was 2014. We had a record number of guests confirmed—26. We also had a bulldog named Diesel. Diesel was huge, but the sweetest doofus of a dog I’ve ever seen. JM was planning to cook the turkey over charcoal and had wrapped it in this thick peppered bacon. It was going to be a masterpiece. Then I heard JM yelling in the kitchen. He had turned his back for just a second and Diesel had that turkey on the floor. We got it away from him and put it in the sink. Half the bacon was gone. I searched for bite marks, but truthfully if I’d found any I’d still have served that sucker. Where was I going to find a turkey on Thanksgiving day? Kids were threatened with EBH if they said a word to my mom.

I finally told her about it last year

Me, 54
Him, 45 (JMSSC)
Married 24 years. Reconciled.

posts: 4813   ·   registered: Sep. 12th, 2011   ·   location: South Carolina
id 8766381

number4 ( member #62204) posted at 2:59 AM on Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022

Superesse - so sorry to hear about your brother's death. It sounds like exactly how my alcoholic brother died when he was 66 years old... in the hospital, basically in a coma; they tried to flush the alcohol from his system, but his organs began shutting down. Then my oldest brother had to make the call after the doctor said he wasn't going to recover. He was not stabilizing despite being detoxed, so they removed life support. I just had to remind myself that my brother (the one who died) made this choice. He had endless resources to be in rehab for many years, and never availed himself of the help. What was surreal was that one of our other brothers (four years older than this brother) died eleven days earlier from a heart attack. I mean, geez! How do you even begin to process that - these events came 7 1/2 months after Dday 1.

To bring this back to Thanksgiving and holiday blues... our dad died in 2001 on my alcoholic brother's 50th birthday, a week before Thanksgiving. It was a rough holiday... and there's just not anyway to compartmentalize that kind of trauma so that the holiday doesn't seem so strange.

For about the last 10+ years, H has smoked our Thanksgiving turkey on our Big Green Egg. If you've never had a properly smoked turkey from a ceramic smoker, you're missing out. It is a tradition that I know our girls appreciate. This year it will just be H and I, and D and her H. But there will be lots of food. If we happen to move next year before Thanksgiving, this may be the last Thanksgiving I spend with this D and her H, as we will be 3000 miles away. Their lives just aren't conducive to traveling - dogs, time, money, jobs (although we'd pay if they came), son-in-law terrified of flying. It makes me sad; I want to hold onto all the memories I can this Thursday.

Me: BW
Him: WH
Married - 30+ years
Two adult daughters
1st affair: 2005-2007
2nd-4th affairs: 2016-2017
Many assessments/polygraph: no sex addiction
Status: R

posts: 1086   ·   registered: Jan. 10th, 2018   ·   location: Southern California
id 8766387

number4 ( member #62204) posted at 3:05 AM on Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022

I should have added, my life could be worse. My poor trainer... I found out today that he, his wife and 1 2/ year old child all have COVID. And she had a miscarriage last week. Now that's a life that just sucks right now. They will be stuck at home on Thanksgiving, with no family able to come over.

Me: BW
Him: WH
Married - 30+ years
Two adult daughters
1st affair: 2005-2007
2nd-4th affairs: 2016-2017
Many assessments/polygraph: no sex addiction
Status: R

posts: 1086   ·   registered: Jan. 10th, 2018   ·   location: Southern California
id 8766389

 Superesse (original poster member #60731) posted at 3:19 AM on Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022

Thanks for the kind words, y'all, only one real-life friend has even responded to my email notification, I guess because they don't know what to say...much appreciate my fellow SI'rs who are the greatest 💖s I've ever found!

HFSS, dogs and turkeys, yes. Bacon, peppered bacon? Your dog has a better tummy than mine, we gave him bacon fat drizzled over his kibbles one too many times and he got pancreatitis; however, he's 14 now. There was one year, 2 years after my father died, where we knew we didn't want to go out to another buffet like the previous sad year, yet we had no family left who would come. Neighbors who used to come for a few years in a row, had started keeping their grandkids so they hosted their own. It was looking like another lonely holiday. (I should have started off by admitting that cooking isn't one of the goals of my existence. I just try to pull it off for the holidays, am still learning every day, but never master much.) So that year, I duly cranked up the oven and started a huge turkey at 7 am. Did stuffing later on, and all the usual sides as the day went on, always stepping over the old dog Mr. K, who was lying under the kitchen table, nose to the oven door, in an ecstasy of aromas.

It hit me that I DID have somebody to cook for besides myself and WH: the dear old dog! It was a big bird, so I went and rested in another room after I had everything else made. The smell of turkey roasting was filling the house more and more. Eventually, the dog let out a huge groan and I knew he was 'telling' me it was Ready! I went to check, and the meat thermometer had just reached temperature! What a good boy! (But he cannot have table scraps anymore, bah humbug!)

So at least the old dog will be expecting this to happen. Somehow he knows what day it is...Mom starts work in the kitchen, early! (I'd have served that bitten bird, too.)

It has been eerily quiet today afyer 2 weeks of sometimes hourly texts from family. I've had my crying spells. Not sure if we should try to invite anybody. Plus the house isn't in party shape. 😞

posts: 1549   ·   registered: Sep. 22nd, 2017   ·   location: Washington D C area
id 8766394
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