We’ve all likely experienced the anxiety of coming home from college and being forced into painful conversations with relatives we haven’t seen since last year.
God, I hope no one asks me any questions, we pray to ourselves. But, despite our internal pleas, this hope often goes unresolved.
Throngs of cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, family friends and other stragglers begin ringing your doorbell just as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade runs through their final floats.
Having somehow gotten out of hosting Thanksgiving for the past three years, it’s your turn now. Woohoo.
The gathering quickly divides itself along generational and ideological lines as guests move to enjoy the laid out appetizers while they await seating for the main course.
Fingers expertly dance around the untouched veggie tray, devouring the cheese and crackers, hummus dip and other cultural dishes both sides of the family may have prepared.
At this point, you have hopefully followed the buddy system and found a like-minded cousin or sibling to attach yourself to in order to avoid any awkward interactions.
Until, inevitably, an older relative closes in and corners you, armed with a list of questions about your life and career prospects:
How have classes been this semester? Are you seeing anybody? What’s your major again? Do you have a job lined up? Are they brainwashing you over there? Are you using drugs? You look thin, are you eating enough?
Bad, no, Journalism, no, no, no, yes.
You desperately try to think up a nice-sounding yet realistic lie to get out of the conversation as smoothly as possible.
Soon enough, you reunite with your buddy — your cousin, Matt — and sit down at the table, ready to enjoy the food and ignore the political conversation that will soon commence from the warring ends of the table:
“Can you believe Trump is running again!?”
“He’s exactly what we need to fix this country!”
“More like what we need to keep giving tax cuts to the ultra-wealthy while ignoring climate change!”
“You’re just mad he doesn’t conform to your woke agenda!”
And on and on it goes, never changing anyones mind but always dampening everyone’s mood.
Eventually, the meal ends and guests start to exit the arena. You can finally hear yourself think.
Because after all, that’s what the purpose of this break was supposed to be: to relax
Only as we get older, time off from school is less devoted to relaxation and more devoted to figuring out ways to play up your life achievements and pretend you have your life in order.
We are aware that this picture of Thanksgiving may not relate to everyone reading this. For some, it is a much smaller gathering consisting only of immediate family and Chinese takeout.
Others, especially those who live far away or are unable to get a ride home and back, spend their Thanksgiving in Bethlehem alone or with the few friends who are in the same situation.
It is these people we should remember as we are deflecting questions from our probing relatives this week.
For as disjointed and combative the group can be when they get together, there is one string that ties each relative together more tightly than you may realize: they’re family.
We may chafe at problematic comments from older relatives or wish that one weird aunt who wears too much perfume would not insist on hugging us so tightly.
But those idiosyncrasies are what make each family unique from any other.
So, if you’re going home for Thanksgiving this weekend, try to enjoy the time you have with your family as best you can. And if your relatives grow annoying fast, don’t worry. At least you’ll get a funny story out of it.