Changes in family dynamics often bring changes in traditions. Adjusting to those changes, while sometimes difficult, is often awkward.
When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was celebrated by going to both sets of my grandparents’ houses where all my aunts, uncles and cousins congregated. One year we’d go to my mother’s parents for lunch and my father’s parents for dinner, and then the next year switch it up, because the dinner meal was the “leftovers” meal.
The only year I recall doing something different was when an uncle decided to host the lunch meal at his house on my mother’s side of the family. With the exception of being at a different location, the same people were there and the food tasted the same, so it seemed like a normal Thanksgiving… until the fight.
The fight started when a younger cousin of mine was bugging an uncle. He got upset with her and said a few unkind words, which prompted her mother – that uncle’s older sister – to yell at him.
My father had observed the entire incident, so he came to my uncle’s defense, telling the girls’ mother – his sister-in-law – to knock it off, as she didn’t even know the entire situation. She snapped back at him, although I can’t recall what exactly was said. The fight pretty much ended right there, although the tension in the house prompted my family to leave soon after.
Needless to say, the next year we were back at my grandma’s house for Thanksgiving.
Both sets of my grandparents are still alive and well, but they prefer that others host the holiday, which they gladly attend. Others in both families have died, including my father, which changed some of the dynamics, but the biggest factor in this change was that some of the grandchildren, myself included, have gotten married and had children of our own. Bringing a spouse into the mix adds more places where one needs to go, and as a result choices need to be made.
For my family now, Thanksgiving usually involved going to my father-in-law’s family’s house for lunch and then somewhere on my side of the family for dinner, depending on who was hosting. But my father-in-law’s death last year changed this, and as a result we’ll be going to my mother’s house for Thanksgiving lunch.
Not all will make it to my mother’s house, as a result of changing family dynamics, including one uncle who has stopped speaking to nearly all of his siblings. Those who do, though, will celebrate it much like in the past – visiting, eating, watching football and playing cards. My oldest son will play with other children who are hopefully there, and many of my relatives will take turns holding my youngest son.
Next year Thanksgiving might be held at an entirely different location, including the possibility relatives might come to our house in Stevens Point. My children will be used to the annual change and probably won’t think anything of it, although my wife and I will still never fully adjust to the changing of tradition.
Christmas is even more complicated, but I’m sure most people understand. We’ll probably spend the next month trying to figure it out, and even then we might not get it right. If not, we’ve got New Year’s the following week to correct it.