Thanksgiving. The kick off to the Holiday Season. A time for togetherness, thankfulness, laughter and cheer. A time for cooking, sweating, schlepping, stress and commotion. With our family growing larger with every passing year and the generation ahead of mine becoming more and more exhausted with the thought of hosting continual family gatherings, the weeks leading up to this year’s Thanksgiving had the holiday shaping up to look a little different than in years past. Usually we have a large party, complete with way too much food, at my aunt and uncle’s house. But this year, after plans falling through, questioning family dynamics and us younger ones voicing our annoyances, we ended up having split Thanksgivings. Five or so different households had their own food, their own drink and their own conversations, each about 5 blocks from the other. I’m sure we all enjoyed the time with our siblings and parents, I know I did, but the problem was that my mom and her sisters raised us all as siblings. Of course, we have special bonds within our own family units that have the same last name, but we have this special Patton thing too. I honestly have a hard time thinking of another family that can rival the closeness, the nosiness, the interconnectedness, and the fierce love that our family embodies, for good and bad.
The dynamics of our family are not always easy. We annoy the crap out of each other, continually. We fight and don’t speak to each other, we say things we shouldn’t and offer advice that isn’t needed. We overstep our boundaries constantly, if there even are any to overstep, and we are sometimes too quick to judge each other, unnecessarily. Each of us kids have grown up with our primary parents and then secondary parents and tertiary parents. The result of this, however, is that there are layers upon layers of love, guidance and support in our Patton clan, whether we want it or not.
Sometimes, as happened this year, the stress of expectations and life just get in the way of us coming together. Sometimes, it is easier to do things smaller and to resign a bit. However, I couldn’t help but think how lucky we all are to have the family that we do. Many people only have a few family members around or none at all. Many people would kill to have a family like ours, with loads of people there to pick you up when you are down or make you laugh when you are sad or whip you into shape when you are royally screwing up. As we gathered separately for the first time in my life, I couldn’t help but be a little sad. Especially when we uncovered our food and realized that we had made enough for 30, not 7. It made me realize that despite the ever-present crazy that is our family, I want Eliza and our future kids to experience it, in all of its glory. This was just one holiday, I know. This was not the end of our family traditions or the demise of our bond, not in the least. I know I am being over-dramatic. But I am glad that I realized this and I am glad that we will have many more holidays to share with each other when the stress subsides and our world resumes as normal.
The funny thing is, after we all had eaten at our separate households, we all ended up together. On Wednesday, my aunt texted us all and said that they would have drinks after dinner at their house if anyone wanted to swing by, informally of course. One by one, the family trickled in. We watched Eliza dance around the living room, met my cousin’s new girlfriend (congratulating him inappropriately for choosing a great girl who is not a loser), listened to the boys discuss the upcoming Apple Cup which we are still devastated about and generally had our normal family Thanksgiving party. I left really cracking up inside. We literally tried to not have Thanksgiving together and couldn’t do it. We cooked meals separately but ended up calling each other to see how to make respective recipes that we normally don’t make. We said it was just too much this year to get together. We thoroughly annoyed my grandparents by not planning something with the whole family. But in the end, it seems that no matter how hard we try to find some separation, it just isn’t possible. We really do drive each other mad sometimes but we are stronger, happier and more complete together. And isn’t that something to be thankful for? MEB
Thanksgiving at my Mom’s
Eliza and her princess castle
My brother and his girlfriend Tori and Grandpa Don
A glimpse at the mountains of food we had
My mom 🙂
After dinner dancing and playing with Nick and Tori
With Everyone at my Aunt Paige’s
The Apple Cup in Pullman the day after Thanksgiving. Our Cougs lost but it was a great day and a great tradition!