A few years back at my parents house I hosted Christmas dinner for them and some family members and a few others. The night went well and I made some mistakes but none of them were too detrimental. (I remember serving the French onion soup in clear glasses. Each portion looked like a bowl of diarrhea.) I’ve been on a kick, it seems my entire life, to have an honest to goodness big old family Holiday. That Christmas was my first attempt at it. It was also my first introduction to the reality that most family members don’t want an honest to goodness big old family Holiday. Many would be much obliged to spend their Thanksgiving someplace where they don’t have to do the cooking, don’t have to do the cleaning and don’t have to worry about making chit-chat with family members with whom they are, at best, merely cordial.
I’m sort of exaggerating. Nobody, as far as I can tell, hates each other in my family. But so many of them live just far enough away that a family dinner drive just isn’t worth it. Cousins in Las Vegas, Aunts in Oregon, Uncles in the Bay. Again, not very far. Just far enough. But I’ve still wanted it. The sort of Chicago Christmas you see in movies like “Home Alone” (before they ditch him). I basically see two obstacles. One, my family really isn’t that big. My dad’s side consists of him and his mother and a cousin who I’m told isn’t welcome. My mom’s side is bigger. She’s got the sister and the two brothers and the nieces and nephews. But therein lies problem number two: my family is filled with a bunch of shy people who don’t know how or don’t want to put in the effort of herding a bunch of relatives into one city and house.
So it doesn’t happen very often is what I’m saying. But I still cross my fingers and hold out hopes. This year I hosted Thanksgiving. I’ve got a new house with enough space. I didn’t try to wrangle too many family members. I was satisfied with my parents and my brother and his wife but I put out word that anyone and everyone was invited. The problem there is that I’m shy too. Sending out word isn’t the same as wrangling in guests.
Nevertheless, I hosted Thanksgiving at my house. There was Mom and Dad and Robert and Dawn and Britney and Me and a couple others who arrived later but were not present for food. The food was good and fun to make and somehow the turkey came out moist and when everyone left there were enough leftovers for two weeks (still some in the fridge right now.)
I’m not sure what it means, this desire to bring the family together. I imagine few in a family actually want to get together for these events. Often it takes the work of a matriarch or a patriarch or some terrible, long coming death. There isn’t really a patriarch or a matriarch in my family. My mom doesn’t have the disposition; my dad doesn’t have the desire or the skills. The rest of them seem to be pulling away with the strands of their lives.
I don’t have kids and don’t know if I want any. But I enjoy having a family around me. The thing I’ve learned the most as I’ve gotten older is that when you want something you’ll be surprised at how often if behooves you to simply go and get it. This doesn’t mean I’m about to make someone the next Mrs. Dart. No, thank you. But I’ve got family out there. Someone simply needs to bring them together. Maybe I could be that person?