Pass the damn gravy

The TV show Roseanne opened the door, showing us that everyone has a       dysfunctional family to some degree.  It’s so “Norman Rockwell” to imagine that on holidays, those family meals will go along smoothly, and afterwards we’ll all gather around the piano to sing carols.  Growing up, I often thought that must be the way it was at the other people’s house, because it was never that way at my childhood home.  After watching a myriad of (goody-goody) TV Christmas specials from Perry Como to Carol Burnett, to Donnie & Marie… Life was always perfect, or was supposed to be at Christmas and Thanksgiving.

I’m sure there are some homes ripped with terrible violence beyond belief and yet some that are close to an “Andy Williams Christmas Special”…  “….  why look,  Johnny Mathis is singing in the kitchen….”   I guess for the most part, for the duration of the family gathering, most of us are somewhere in the middle, putting our differences aside long enough to have a non-emotional, token conversation, even though you hate somebody’s  guts. 

What irritates me, is the disingenuousness of the get together.  Forcing enemies together to break bread usually produces just a temporary, plastic truce.  While chewing on the gravy soaked turkey they’re still thinking, “I just want’a punch him in the face.” 

Then of course there’s the relative that gives you the big “how are you hug”, then walks off to chat with someone else.  At the end of the day, as most people are leaving and thanking the host and or hostess, you get the obligatory “it was great seeing you again hug”.  The entire day, no other words were spoken between the two of you.  This is so phony, why do we do it.  Who does this impress? 

What do kids think?  All morning while preparing and traveling to Grandma’s, you and your spouse comment and complain about someone who will be attending this year’s grand event.  Let’s say that someone’s name is Ralph.  “Ralph’s a jackass….  I hate him…  he picks his teeth at the table… Ralph’s wife is a slut…  Ralph has bad breath….  Ralph steals from his boss..”

You know the type, Ralph is to be avoided like the plague.  The kids witness everything said and then watch you be friendly to Ralph at the gathering.  When kids observe hypocritical behavior, they must assume it’s OK and they too will be doing it the same way when they get older.

Here’s another example…  My late grandmother was Pennsylvania Dutch.  For her traditional New Years Day dinner she served stuffed pig stomach. It was to give you good luck for the New Year.  Now, doesn’t that sound tantalizing?  When I was a boy, I thought that was disgusting.  Later in life, I learned it was a very tasty meal.  I don’t want to get into recipes at this point, but I’m sure we can all name a few dishes that are yummy for adults and kids wouldn’t eat it with a gun aimed at their skull.

That’s what this was all about.  My dear Grandmother saw this dilemma.  So, for all the younger grand-kids she prepared another special dinner called Texas Hash.  Basically it was a spaghetti / “Hamburger Helper” type of meal.  We kids sucked that up like it was the last meal on Earth.  

Can you imagine the work that went into all this food?  The Pig stomach concoction took hours to prepare, as did the Texas Hash.  The woman worked like a dog to make everyone happy.  Once everyone arrived, someone (usually my Mom) would get into it with my Grandmother.  They’d argue over really stupid stuff.  My Mom would complain about whatever, while woofing down the Pig Stomach delicacy.  Their battles were the typical “In-Law Wars”. 

In summary..  Should we set aside our differences for just a day to demonstrate an hypocritical peace a couple of times a year?  What does this demonstrate to the younger generation?  Or….  should we stick to our guns?  Don’t give up the principles.  Never speak to that person until this entire disagreement is settled. 

All these years the settlement usually turns out this way:

I’m willing to turn the other cheek..   If he is.. 

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