Thanksgiving Suggestions From a Dysfunctional Family

I hope that you are enjoying or preparing to enjoy your Thanksgiving with family and friends.

I also hope that you are getting a breather – although if you’re the host or hostess, probably not. And if you’re the turkey, you’ve already breathed your last.

I have distinct memories of my Mom making herself crazy with food prep for company that we only saw once a year – at Thanksgiving. Some family members we were so glad to see…and then there were a couple of others.

I always felt terrible for Mom, but as a child, I really couldn’t do anything about the situation except to set the table and stay out from underfoot.

That’s changed, of course, and now I’m in her shoes, so, here are my (and my evil twin’s) Thanksgiving suggestions to get you through the day:

  • Help the hostess clean her house the day before, especially if she works outside the home which means her time is quite limited, or if she is older. In this case, “older” starts about age 30.
  • If you don’t want to do that, consider having Thanksgiving at your house and all of a sudden vacuuming at the hostess’s house will seem really attractive.
  • Have family members DNA swab BEFORE eating – that way if they begin to discuss politics during the meal and someone half the family stomps out – you’ll already have collected their DNA.
  • As soon as DNA swabbing is over, consider serving, as an appetizer, the brownies brought by your really laid-back cousin who lives in a medical marijuana state. There’s a reason why he smiles all the time. Thanksgiving will go much more smoothly.
  • Lend a hand – meaning be helpful. Do not be a smart-aleck and clap your hands. Otherwise, you’ll never know what is really in your food.
  • Do not give the hostess who has been up since 5 AM wrestling with a turkey and has not eaten anything all day long an alcoholic beverage, or one of those brownies.
  • Bring a dish – preferably with enough food in the dish to feed more than a goldfish. Yes, uncle, this means you.
  • Bring flowers for the table – nice flowers, not leftover half-dead mums from the frost earlier in the week.
  • Set the table before the meal with real, not paper, plates. Forks go on the left, knife at right closest to the plate and spoon to the right of that. Just put a roll of paper towels on the table for napkins.
  • If the hostess replaces the paper towels with cloth napkins, do not blow your nose on them.
  • It’s impolite to hang out on your cell phone during the meal. Also impolite anytime conversation is taking place. Yes, we can tell what you are doing in your lap or under the table.
  • However, it’s OK to go in the bathroom and discretely search for recipes that include Xanax, possibly as frosting for brownies. Christmas is only a month away and you have get to see these folks again.
  • The reason there is now a timer installed in the bathroom is because you took up residence in the ONLY bathroom last Thanksgiving for an hour and a half. Not cool. #notyouroffice
  • Clear the table after the meal. Don’t let the dog lick the plates even if you are done with them. At least not where anyone can see.
  • Help with the dishes. No, you cannot just throw the plates away. Also, see above.
  • Don’t disappear onto the couch leaving everything for someone else – especially not the same someone who cooked the meal. People have died for less.
  • If you do this and are married to the hostess, let’s just say you will have had your last child whether you meant to or not.
  • Watch the kids. Yes, your kids and someone else’s if need be. And that does not mean watch them get into trouble.
  • Do not feed said children your cousin’s special brownies. Or alcoholic beverages. That does not count as watching them.
  • Take a deep breath and drink in the scene, because everyone may not be here next year. It’s considered bad form to fantasize about who you would like to be absent next year.
  • Love them while you can, if you can.
  • Take a moment to remember those who have departed, but are still among the family in spirit this year. To honor them, discuss their most memorable moments. Like the summer Mom got her false teeth stuck in a corn cob, or maybe when she was cheering so hard for her grandson running at the state track meet that her dentures fell out of her mouth, onto the track below – causing him to be embarrassed and emotionally scarred for life. To hear him tell it anyway. He did have to go and hunt for them and pick them up as an auditorium full of people laughed. He waved those things like a trophy as he trotted off the track, waving at Grandma. She, on the other hand, was utterly mortified and tried to disappear into nothing. Yep, they will love haunt you for this.
  • On the other hand, there are the “other” still-living relatives. You know who you are.
  • Speaking of which, if you are the lecherous uncle, this might not be the year. Just saying…
  • On second thought, if you’re the lecherous uncle, become suddenly vegetarian and stay home, because knives are sharp and so are memories.
  • If you’re not the lecherous uncle, but he has the bad judgement to attend, again, spend your time walking from person to person, whisper behind your hand into their ear, look at him furtively and nod in his direction as you’re whispering.
  • Write #metoo on postit notes and leave them where Uncle Lecherous will find them at the most inopportune times. Or, better yet, stick one on the bottom of his cup where he won’t see it, but others will. Every. Time. He. Takes. A. Drink. Act surprised and after an hour or two, say aloud “I wonder what that is stuck to your cup” and everyone else can chime in, “Me too.”
  • It is not OK to out grandma at the dinner table, no matter how happy you are to have discovered that Uncle Lecherous is only your half uncle. This massive faux pas will cause you to become immediately and permanently exiled to the “bad” list as well as the children’s table. Just be silently grateful to grandma.
  • Try really hard to appreciate everyone’s differences. If you can’t do that, attempt to be tolerant, unless Uncle Lecherous acts up again. If tolerance doesn’t work, or Uncle Lecherous needs his comeuppance, try not to get blood on anything. It makes a mess and stains.
  • If the family member with whom you have an altercation is genetically related and did not DNA swab before the altercation, attempt to recover some of their blood, so long as it’s not mixed with yours. (Just kidding, sortof.)
  • If you must altercate, do so preferably after dinner, outside. Do not upset the Thanksgiving table or use a drumstick or cast iron skillet as a weapon. Drumsticks are ineffective and you won’t have leftovers tomorrow, and you might damage the  skillet.
  • If the police arrive due to the altercation, hope that the officers are related (to you) and be prepared to feed them. I don’t know about donuts in the afternoon, but chocolate anything has been known to work as has pumpkin pie. However, do NOT allow anyone to give the officers the special brownies.
  • If the officers begin to ask questions about the brownies, tell them how happy you are that Uncle Lecherous brought his special secret-recipe brownies. Again, everyone can chime in with, “me too.” Watching the results will provide world-class entertainment and stories for decades!

I hope this has made you smile. Feel free to add your own “suggestions” in the comments!

The holidays are special and family gatherings are the time and place to share memories and swab family members while everyone is still in a good mood and before the fight begins.

Thanksgiving is a good time to prepare for the Christmas holidays by asking people to bring photos and other memorabilia to share.  Bring a scanner along with DNA swab kits.  Sharing gets everyone thinking about genealogy and they’ll be a lot more willing to swab if they are excited about their common family history and understand that their DNA is an important part of the puzzle.

Friday, and for some even later on Thanksgiving day, the great shopping rat-race begins. Here’s hoping you get to spend quality time with family and make Thanksgiving a day of peace and joy.

Safe journey and see you overhome!



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24 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Suggestions From a Dysfunctional Family

  1. I needed a laugh today, thank you!!!
    It’s amazing to see how many families are really disfunctional. When we think that our own family is “odd” we meet someone or marry into a family that is ten times worse than our own. Then we can be thankful for what we really have!
    I also loved your tips for DNA testing! Now, if I could only afford to test everyone!!

    • One Kit every sale, or wait until Christmas (like now) when the Family Finder test is on sale at $59. Then ask your Project Manager(s), or review Roberta’s posts for sale coupons. Even a $5. off Family Finder helps cover the shipping charge of $12.95.

  2. Just what I needed to read as I take a break in my
    holiday preparations. Thanks so much for the laughs! Plus it reminded me to bring out the swabs.

  3. Happy Thanks Giving Roberta –

    A “HUGE” Hug to You for sharing your way of “Giving” a Holiday Dinner for Family. I followed your lead a week ago Wednesday, after returning from Conference. Table was set, “Wine” bottles opened, and as my Brother reached for his glass, he saw the little white envelope on his plate. He asked “What’s this, a Birthday Present? My Sis, her husband, and I, all laughed, “Of course” I replied, along with “No Wine until You Test.” Again, laughter filled the room. My Sis explained that I had already already hit them up earlier in the year, and of course, being a good sport he took the test, to please his little sister, or maybe he just wanted the wine. Either way, he’s tested.

    Oh – and regarding conference this year, Yes, my Husband was fully aware of not only what Hotel I was staying at, but “why” I was there. He phoned one evening and asked “Do You realize how far away you are from me? Over 2,000 miles!” Of which I responded “Did You not know where Texas is?”

  4. Thank you sooo much. Love your humor. When I was in 3rd grade my family had to go to three!! Extended family dinners. We were told not to tell anyone when we had already eaten. Talk about a bellyache, I’m 77, & have never forgotten that Thanksgiving. Sandy

  5. Just remember to rinse the blood off clothes with cold water, not warm. Warm water cooks the proteins in blood and sets the stain. Plain bar soap and cold water work wonders.

    Using the cast iron skillet probably won’t hurt the skillet but might up the charges from simple battery to assault with intent or even manslaughter if the angle is wrong. If you’re in Texas and this is not your first family Thanksgiving, it could be the third strike that makes it a felony. Not that I know anything about the “three strikes and you’re out” law.

    Use the wet dish towel for a pop in the face instead. It’s insulting as all get-out but leaves no permanent damage. Unless you want to leave permanent damage…then odds are (especially if you’re in Texas) someone is carrying. And someone will probably know a bail bondsman and a good defense attorney, too. You’ll be out on your own recognizance in time for Cyber Monday specials.

  6. You’ve missed your calling. You should do more of this kind of writing. This was great! I was sitting here commiserating on yesterday when I scrolled into this, and it really lifted my spirits…thank you…I guess if we’re honest, we’re all somewhat dysfunctional as families, and we just need to laugh…..a lot!

    Love, Brownie

  7. Let me tell you about our of very Memorable family Thanksgiving…Our family had a tradition that after Christmas dinner the Ladies of the family would gather around the table and decide who’s turn it was to host the holiday celebrations for the upcoming year for our extended family. Even though the celebrations had dwindled in size to Even though the potential hostesses had dwindled down to just Mother, sister and I we continued the tradition and at Christmas we’d claim which Holiday we wanted to Host the next year. We would observe many occasions during the year but Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas were the times we expected to be together and few excuses were acceptable. Thanksgiving 1979 was to be at my sisters house. I remember that as early as the 4th of July Mom asked Patty is she should bring the turkey . “No, thanks for asking but I am sure we can manage it” In September at my son’s birthday party Mom asked again “Are you sure I can’t bring the turkey? It won’t be any trouble, It would be easier on you, and you know I don’t have much opportunity to do a big dinner since all you kids are so spread out.”
    “No Mom, I’m fine. I don’t need any help with dinner. I have it all covered”
    “Well then tell me what I can bring? We aways bring something…we always
    have done it that way”
    “MOM I’ve got it ! In fact I already have a turkey in the freezer!”
    “I just want to help, I know the kids will keep you busy and I ….”
    “MOM I”VE GOT IT!”
    Sis and her husband were not the best at money management and Mother and Dad frequently would help them out. I guess since things were going ok and had been for a while my Sis wanted to make a statement of independence or something because when Mom asked her at Halloween if she could bring a ham or the turkey or at least send her some money to help out at least a little Sis told her in no uncertain terms that she was quite capable of providing a Thanksgiving meal for the entire family and if you MUST bring something just bring some dinner rolls.
    Mom and I usually spoke on the phone several times a week and the week before Turkey Day Mom asked me what I thought about her getting a ham to fix the way Patty likes it with pineapple slices stuck on with cloves and the mustardy honey glaze. I asked if she remembered the last conversation she’d had with Pat about the dinner and she confessed that she did remember in spite of that but she’d gotten Dad to call that morning and ask if Patty is she needed anything and she had told him “No” as well. I told Mom I thought that may not be the best idea but had she thought about bringing the rum and the spiced mix for Hot Toddy’s?
    Thanksgiving Day arrived, we packed up our kids and began the trek over the river, through the woods and up the mountain to Aunty’s house, arriving at 1:30 , about an hour before dinner was expected to be served. We pulled into the driveway just a minute or so behind my folks.
    My sister’s children came pouring out of their house . There was lots of hugging and happy greetings. My oldest niece asked “What did you bring Grandma? Can I carry something in?” Mom said “No, your Mom said she’s doing it all herself so I just brought some dinner rolls, where is your Mother?” Gina looked at her with a funny expression on her face, grabbed the bag of rolls and scurried into the house. We followed her into the house unloaded the little kids, looked around and still not seeing my sister My Mother asked my oldest nephew “Where’s your Mother?” I will never ever in my life forget the look on her face at his reply “Oh, she just went next door to try and buy a frozen turkey from the neighbors.”
    He was not kidding!
    . I think that something resembling dinner was served about 9:30 pm but I really don’t remember much except being Very Very Thankful for the Hot Toddies.
    That particular holiday started a new tradition in my family. From that time on if we were suppose to eat at my sister’s we would always stop and feed our kids at a restaurant just before we got to her house. My kids are grown, my sister is gone and Thanksgiving at Aunty Pat’s has become the # one favorite family Thanksgiving story.

  8. Thanks, Roberta. Your essay is a hoot! Allow me to add another tip: Do not allow guests to bring their ‘well mannered’ dogs to the feast. One year, as we were all bowing our heads in prayer, a guest’s small dog leapt up on the table, grabbed a turkey drumstick, and raced to the parlor, where he crouched on a newly upholstered antique settee, and snarled at anyone who came close. I think we were finally able to separate the dog from the drumstick with a few well placed swats with a broom. The dog was banished to his crate, and the settee was later sent back to the upholsterer for repair. Those special brownies would have come in handy about then…..

  9. In olden days it was said that there were three topics that should never be brought to the table at family gatherings. They are topics of sex, religion and politics. It might be a bit late to say it now, but perhaps just in time for Christmas. 🙂

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