Thanksgiving with a Non-Traditional Family
I smiled gamely as the band played "Someone to Watch Over Me." I made a point of being in the ladies' room during the bouquet toss, I threw sachets of politically correct birdseed, and I went home and waited for the baby showers to begin.
Evidently, nothing leads to pregnancy faster than chowing down on a scoop of homemade ice cream and an ear of corn while dressed in a lacy camisole, because it wasn't long before I was buying the newlyweds a car seat, a crib set, a soft yellow squeaky thing that played "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," and listening to brand-new mothers extolling the virtues of a good epidural. Legend has it that my friend Brenda found herself licking the anesthesiologist's fingers during the birth of baby number three, but I'll save that for my Valentine's Day column on unrelenting pain. Meanwhile, back at the Thanksgiving column, my list of cousins was growing. The holidays became about sippy cups and I became "the kid with the interesting job."
The only someone to watch over me was me, and everybody knew it. Conversational gambits at holiday dinners were confined to safe subjects guaranteed not to draw any attention to the fact that I'd never be on the receiving end of a silver seafood fork. Allow me to elaborate:
Uncle Sol: "Say, did you know that Dalmatians tend to be hard of hearing?"
Me: "Umm, no."
Uncle Sol: "It's true."
Uncle Sol: "So [long pause], how's your bicycle doing?"
Me: "Pretty good...yours?"
Uncle Sol: "Great."
They tried, I tried, we all tried, and the harder we tried, the more strained it got, until one day, I had a baby of my own, and suddenly my relationship with Johannes was deemed legitimate and motherhood took me from screw-up to grown-up in the eyes of the people whose respect I craved most.
That was a few years and a million somebody elses ago. Jules is in preschool now—and (as we go to press) still single, though she has been seeing one Mr. Bennett Orenstein, who is not only potty-trained but was recently awarded a medal for swimming with his face in the water.
I know that someday soon my girl will come home with a construction-paper Pilgrim hat and a pipe-cleaner turkey and they will become the centerpiece for our own Thanksgiving dinner, complete with our own traditions. We will invite all our friends who, thanks to divorces and long distances and family dynamics, find themselves free that night. We'll raise our glasses and drink to being who we want to be. And then we'll sit down to a large platter brimming with fettuccine Alfredo and all the trimmings. Once an odd duck, always an odd duck.
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