Thanksgiving for me, like most people in the US, is an extended family affair. Since most of my mother's family passed away before I was born or when I was quite young, Thanksgiving revolves around my step-dad's family. Despite the fact that my step-dad's family is devout Southern Baptist, our Thanksgiving is not very religious, something I consider fortunate, since my religious beliefs are so different. Unfortunately, that is where the good fortune ends. My step-dad's family is dramatic, argumentative, and manipulative. Without fail, every Thanksgiving eventually disintegrates into a family argument. My mother and I, the only two "outsiders", always attempt to stay out of it, but we do not always succeed. I find the inevitability of a fight extremely frustrating, since I just want to enjoy the holiday.
Don't get me wrong, I know that every family fights. I think the idea of a "normal" family is, at best, a myth and, at worst, a joke. When people live in close proximity, conflict is inevitable. But I think the level of manipulation, pettiness, and vindictiveness in my step-dad's family is way beyond the average family. Every year before hand, my step-dad gives my sister and me a long list of things we are not allowed to mention to his relatives. Much of it is completely mundane, like the fact that we replaced the floor tiles in the bathroom of the master bedroom, or that my cat Precious has been sick, or anything about my current medical condition other than "I'm getting better", because it will start an argument, usually about money. Having seen how his family reacts to events other families would consider unremarkable, I agree with the necessity of staying silent, but, at the same time, I find it absolutely absurd.
By far the worst is my grandmother. She enjoys playing people off each other and criticizing everything and everyone. Although my family is ignorant of my religious beliefs, I do not make my liberal political beliefs a secret, something my grandmother has a field day with. She also hates where I go to school (they are brainwashing me with their liberal ideals), my boyfriend (he is one-quarter Hispanic and my grandmother is quite racist), my choice of clothing (I prefer comfortable clothes in dark, cool colors and refuse to wear skirts or dresses) and my hair (I never wear it up and occasionally dye the bottom couple inches blue). She has also accused me in the past of being a pagan and a Satanist, which, in her mind, are pretty much the same thing.
Thankfully, the main target this year was my little sister, not me. That might sound heartless, but my little sister takes after my step-dad and his family and so is able to hold her own with them much better than I can. The main argument this year was her plans to move out to California with her boyfriend when she finishes school in the spring. While I disagree with her plans for several reasons, I also recognize the fact that my sister is an adult with the right to make her own choices.
Despite the family drama, I always try and remember the actual point of Thanksgiving, which is giving thanks. I think it is important for everyone, regardless of their religious or political beliefs, to realize how lucky we are compared to many people in the world. I am thankful that, although the recession has been hard on my family, we can afford to put food on the table, including a nice Thanksgiving dinner. I am thankful that I have a decent house to live in, even though it needs quite a few repairs. Most of all, despite being ill and struggling to pay medical bills, I am thankful that I have medical insurance which gives me access to good medical care. I am thankful for these things because there are almost 2 billion people in the world who do not have even these basic necessities of life. And I think that is something everyone should remember on Thanksgiving.