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Thursday, June 20, 2024
The Observer

A drama-free Thanksgiving

I, like many, am a survivor of Thanksgiving 2016. That fateful holiday, which just celebrated it’s one year anniversary, left many with their own harrowing stories and some dreading that same reunion this past week. Those from a relatively like-minded or small family might be confused by this nightmare I speak of but almost anyone with a large or argumentative family knows exactly what I’m talking about — the first test of familial bond following the extremely divisive Presidential election.

I’d heard the warnings on the radio before the election had even taken place, we discussed it as an immediate family and agreed to avoid any contentious topics but I was greatly unprepared for what was about to go down.

My family dynamic is uniquely close. My parents grew up a block away from each other as family friends. After they got married and moved back to Oklahoma City they ultimately settled in the house my mom grew up in allowing my grandparents to stay with us. In addition to living with one set of grandparents, my paternal grandparents lived in the house that my dad grew up in around the corner and a majority of my 27 cousins live within ten minutes of us. It’s not uncommon to have a combined holiday celebration with both sides of my family. Needless to say, we spend a lot of time together. The thing about close families is they know how to fight and you have to be tough to survive. The other thing is there everything is everyone’s business

It’s no secret within our family how divided we are on political issues. Although most of my family is primarily Catholic, it’s evident we all have our own interpretations of Catholicism and its application to politics. Some, like my family, have placed more priority in the social justice arm of the Church. Whereas some of my cousins are more conservative in their practice of Catholicism and place more emphasis on the traditional arm of the Church.

Now back to that fateful day. It began as a typical Thanksgiving — NFL football, ham and tamales (we have turkey but it’s kind of a formality for us) and lots of laughter. We had nearly made it through the day without any significant tension. My 23-year-old cousin made a comment on why he couldn’t understand the rising anger of working class white population, effectively Donald Trump’s constituency. This slowly evolved from a discussion to a debate and ultimately a fight as more family members took sides on a myriad of issues.

By the time I decided to head out, people were definitely getting heated but it had remained relatively civil. I would later come to find out from my siblings that stayed that the night ended in multiple people in tears and several slammed doors, a fight for the ages. Everyone made peace but the damage had been done.

Fast forward to this past week. As we all traveled in from our various cities there wasn’t a soul who didn’t remember how the last year had ended. However, this year was relatively drama-free. A few slights here and there but nothing out of the ordinary. The tears were saved for Saturday night as we watch what was left of Notre Dame’s playoff dream all but crash and burn in three minutes and 38 seconds. Which has left me wondering — what changed? Was it the PTSD we were all left with from the year before? Were we less passionate or even regretful about our various positions? Was it Notre Dame football’s success following that disastrous 4-8 season?

I think we all came to an unspoken conclusion that as more and more relatives have moved away to college or started a family of their own it’s a waste to spend the rare time we have together fighting. I don’t foresee my family ever becoming the poster family for every lifetime movie. If anything, I’m grateful for how much my family disagrees. I firmly believe it’s made me a tougher yet more considerate person because ultimately I have to honor their perspectives.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, thank you Notre Dame Football for giving my family something to talk about — the real hero of Thanksgiving 2017.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.