External Independent Familial Unit™
Three hours and fifteen minutes into Thanksgiving, I'm playing a nearly-inaudible set of songs over Winamp, cursing my nocturnal habits, and wondering just when the heck I'm ever going to grow up enough to have holidays at my own house.
Southern families have rules. Nobody bothers writing them down, because why waste paper writing down the obvious? These things are all on the same level of obviousness:
- Left shoe goes on left foot. Right shoe goes on right foot. There should be no leftovers, either of shoes or of feet.
- When someone dies, don't send flowers. Send casseroles.
- You're coming home for the holidays, and don't give us any lip about it either.
So what's the dividing line, exactly? What causes the change in stature from Scion Of Existing Family to External Independent Familial Unit? When is it not just accepted, but expected, that your holidays will be spent under your own roof?
I thought it was kids, but maybe not; I have too many memories of truly riotous Christmases spent running rampant with my motley collection of cousins. Within reason, everyone came home for Christmas (and, to a lesser degree, Thanksgiving). Maybe it's kids + distance from the Original Familial Unit.
After all, as Kara will attest, no matter how good the munchkin, they don't adapt well to cross-country air travel.
Who knows? Either way, Jeff and I aren't at that point yet. We're still doing the holiday-splitting dance; it's like a bad game of Go Fish, except with lots of driving. ("I'll give you a seven-hundred mile drive for Thanksgiving if you'll give me the hundred-mile drive for Christmas...no? Go fish!")
We're bucking the trend a bit this year, and spending Thanksgiving with absolutely no one we're related to. Want proof of how ingrained Southern Family Rules are on my psyche? Know this - it was our decision to take up Brian & Suzan's offer of a "refugee Thanksgiving" and I still feel a smidge of guilt about not spending it with either family.
Mind you, it's the kind of guilt that makes me stay up an hour later than usual, and makes me make a note to call my mother tomorrow to wish her well. Not the kind of guilt that makes me call Brian and Suzan up in the middle of the night, confess my sins against the Southern Nuclear Family, and hie the hell home tomorrow morning in time for the noonday familial bingefest.
No, I'll go to Atlanta, eat the turkey, consume the alcohol, have a smashing good time and not regret a moment of it. How can anyone regret accepting an invitation worded this way:
1) Some of you can't go home for the holidays ... you have to work, your grandmother took the turkey recipe and ran off to the Cayman Islands with her yoga instructor, that restraining order won't let you within 500 feet of Uncle Ted.
2) Some of you would rather not go home to visit the family due to the fact that your family is there. No problem … Jerry Springer made it acceptable to come from a dysfunctional family.
3) Many of you have never had a Thanksgiving that involved a properly cooked turkey … a nice, juicy bird that didn't require 16 ounces of gravy and 12 ounces of beer to rehydrate.
We will eat. We will drink. We will game, and we will rejoice, even if we have to beat each other senseless with the nearest vodka bottle to do it.
As families go, that'll do.
An aside to the fellows in California: if I don't talk with you again before then, have a most excellent trip. Get those new memory cards for your camera broken in, 'cause we're gonna have to take a few photos while I visit....