NOT home for the holidays

Note: Talking about food and eating and not eating

This year for Thanksgiving I did not go home (I haven’t for several years, because Thanksgiving weekend is short and I live several thousand miles away from home.) But usually I would meet up with some family that had been scattered around the area or eat with friends or something.

This year, I did not. (People moved around again, and I suppose I did too, now that I am in graduate school and in a different city and other people live in different places and different countries and such.)

But don’t worry I will definitely be home for Christmas, and for a good long time, too.

This year, I went to boyfriend’s family’s Thanksgiving.

Different families have different traditions.
Family traditions are really confusing if you don’t understand them.
Even things less formalized than traditions. Just family habits.

Like shoes.

We wore our shoes the whole time. In the house. All day. I carefully watched people, so I could tell if it was ok for me to take my shoes off. Usually I do that first thing when coming inside. My whole family does. We have shoe piles by all our doors and have to wander around to the various doors when leaving to try and find where our shoes are.

Boyfriend’s family wears shoes inside. (Later I discussed this, and was informed it would be ok for me to take me shoes off. So now I know that for the future.)

And food.

I have come to the conclusion that my family is overly attached to food. We have very specific dishes. And large numbers of them. Each family makes a few of the different ones to spread out the work. When you have a 30 person Thanksgiving*, you can have more dishes than a 13 person one. And then there are the desserts, which is a whole new meal that you wait several hours for so that you have enough room for it. And the rules about who does which clean-up chores. It is very carefully regimented.

This is the dessert table from the Thanksgiving that my family had that I did not go to. It was much smaller than normal because a lot of people are still in college or are off in various other parts of not-home doing things, like me. Usually there are more cheesecakes. And ice cream. And normal cakes. And whipped cream. And just about everything. But also usually there are 30-50 people, which there wasn’t this year. Also, it was rather cruel to send me this picture. 

These rules do not apply in other families.

Also, they have different food and apparently they make the mashed potatoes taste like water and the sweet potatoes not taste like delicious orange things that are my favorite food ever. (And so then I had a lot of food on my plate that there was no way I was going to eat because it lied about what it was. But it is against the rules not to finish your food when you are a guest. But I couldn’t eat it. So I got stuck there a while until boyfriend noticed and ate the various potatoes for me and then saved me and then I could go eat more turkey and stuffing [which was also wrong, but at least it was yummy, so it was ok].)

And that (mostly the food) makes me sad because it is probably an event I will be going to for years and it is not a potluck thing, so I guess I will have to just deal with it by making my own later after the event** because I do not know if there would be a way for me to offer to make the food without offending people. I will confer with boyfriend on this. But he probably doesn’t know because the food just appears. And also everyone else seems to like it. So I will pretend to like it and remember which ones I don’t like and serve carefully of the things I like so that I have enough food and no one questions me and finds out I don’t actually like most of the food.

And then there are other secret codes and languages. Hidden jokes and words and ideas. “I’ll explain later”s. Songs and dances. What is the order for getting the food? Is there rules to who can sit where?

Boyfriend is good and reviewed things with me before. Where we were going. What would happen. Who would be there. How loud it would be and when and where. But there are things you don’t think of explaining because that’s how you have always done it, so why does it need to be explained. But different families do things differently.

And most families don’t have quiet rooms that you can go to and take a break in and have it be perfectly ok and normal and expected. (And I don’t know them well enough to start exploring the house.)

But boyfriend is important to me. And so is his family. And I want to learn their traditions and get involved in them and be part of their family, too, because that is part of the end goal and in the five-year plan that we have made. And also my family is too far away to go home to for Thanksgiving, so this seems like a good starting place.

But also his family is weird (although I like them very much) and also has issues which are not mine to discuss here and those can be upsetting and confusing to me. Because I mostly know how to deal/cope with/ignore my family issues (because we have our deep dark hidden secrets, too, but I know how we approach them), but I am confused with these issues when I know what they are but I do not have a lifetime of dealing with them to have developed coping mechanisms or to have learned the rules regarding them.

Luckily, there were small children and dogs present. Those are my strongest groups of social interactions. I made new friends, even with the shy ones. We put together puzzles. Both of those classes of living things have a tendency to like me because I don’t mind sitting on the ground and acting embarrassingly. I also discussed farming and coyotes with someone else, which is another one of my strong points.

And his family that I know was very very nice, and most of the people I didn’t know were also nice.

So it was good. And then I came home and lost all my words and boyfriend came over for a bit until the meltdown-shutdown-crying-panic-overload went away and I was happy again.

And then I slept for 13 hours.

(Which threw off my sleep schedule which is why I am still up past 2:00 now…)

* Or a 50 person Christmas
**Definitely made one-person sweet potato pie the day after to make up for the fail.


3 thoughts on “NOT home for the holidays

  1. I'm really sorry this holiday couldn't be what you had counted on and what sounds (from your last post) so warm and such a positive experience for you. I think you're right that if you like your boyfriend's family (and obviously your boyfriend himself means a lot to you) and you plan on spending more time with them, it will be good in the long run to learn their traditions. Not just for their sake though, for your own. The traditions you grew up with will always be a part of you, so if you ever want or need to jump back into that Thanksgiving, you'll be ready and excited to do so. But maybe in time you can have a new box of traditions and comforts in your brain for your boyfriend's family's routines. Then as the years go by you can enjoy it more as you start to look forward to those rituals as well.

    If you don't mind me offering a small piece of unsolicited advice though, please don't prioritize the needs of anyone else over yourself when you are in this kind of incredibly stressful situation. You have the right to take care of yourself, and remember that when you are happy and healthy the people around you will appreciate your company more anyway! I'm not saying you need to be ok with being rude, not at all. I'm saying that if something is too much and you need to hide for a few minutes or a few hours to prevent a meltdown after the event, omg DO IT. You can stake out a place with your bf earlier if it's easier that way. And if you don't feel comfortable explaining exactly why you need it, there are always tons of toss of reasons like “headache” or even “not feeling quite right” which generally go unquestioned. You really do deserve to take care of yourself no matter the situation, and my guess is that if these are people who matter to you, they will actively want you to be happy and comfortable more than they want you to follow their rituals.


  2. Yeah, a lot of the problem was more of me not paying attention to how much I was stressed out (because I didn't even notice until the drive back). And also probably issues where I expected the traditions my family had to be universal traditions (despite being told many times that it was going to be different) so then there was a bit of delayed-effect-overload in there, where I didn't notice anything except that I was totally beating everyone in Scattegories and then WHAM! we are in the car and life is spinning out of control. (I get really competitive at word-based board games and tend to hyper-focus on them. But also I am really good at them.)

    But I definitely do need to do a better job of watching myself. I actually went to two separate Thanksgiving-related-days, and I was a lot better with the second one, so I think I improved…


  3. I sure know how it feels to be in someone else's house and have to try to adjust to all of the weirdness (which is not really weird to THEM, but still feels weird when you're not used to it!) I've spent many holidays and other times at other people's homes, even lived with people for weeks at a time. It is strange! Like you, I always seek out the animals and small children to help me feel more comfortable in a new place.


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