Thanksgiving in England: How Weird is YOUR Family?
If you are reading this you may also be super excited that there is a new season of "The Crown" on Netflix. If you haven't seen it, may I suggest you clear your calendar, buy several bottles of wine and hunker down until you reach the end of the newly released season. I have been watching this show for years and the fact that I now live here and know some of the references to places blows my historical mind. Watching this show, is a bit layered for me, not just because I geek out, but because it revealed something I did not realize I needed until my thirties. I live for W.F.B.
Do you have W.F.B? Otherwise known as Weird Family Behavior? This is a rhetorical question because we all know the answer. If you are in a family, biological or situational, you do weird things AS a family. You do weird things with certain family members. Family style relationships breed a treasure trove of inside jokes and old stories that when you retell them, and you say them out loud, you can feel your audience start to sanity check you. Because from your perspective, it sounds perfectly normal that in an attempt to show your sister that she didn't need any help from a man to set up the Christmas tree, (her ex be dammed), you fell through her ceiling. Who else didn't know you HAD to walk on the wood part? It also doesn't sound a little left field that your sister didn't rush to help you as you teetered on a wooden eave by your vajayjay, but instead ran inside to grab a camera. That's love. That's also blackmail. In a family, you might not always remember the exact origins of the weird things and experiences you collectively share, like playing the floor is hot lava. Didn't we all do that as kids? But your W.F.B. is personal, organic and as comforting as the bed you sleep in at night. It's what you really look forward to at the holidays, to be fully known and fully loved.
It's what you really look forward to at the holidays, to be fully known and fully loved.
This leads me to my sister. My oldest sister, "Sissy," and I are the worst offenders of W.F.B. Yes, I still call my sister, "Sissy." Save your Urban Cowboy jokes. My oldest sister and I are very close. She likes to remind me, ever so often, that when she got her first car at sixteen, it had a carseat in the back. We are divided by a 15 year age gap, but lucky for me she took this on as an opportunity to care for me like her own. I don't know that she really had a choice. But Sissy made me a priority. She always took me to buy school supplies, she cleaned my keds with baby wipes when they got dirty and she made sure I was always outfitted in the finest "Kelly's Kids" clothes. You would think this kind of responsibility at such a young age would make her bitter, instead, it made our relationship better. Sissy remains a constant fixture in my life. In the midst of losing both our parents within a year, we found ourselves coping in weird ways together. This is where I think our W.F.B. really originated. Aside from a lot of wine drinking which is normal in critical moments, we found solace laying up in my sister's king size bed to watch crime tv. You heard me. Hours upon hours of the greatest crime tv hits: OJ, Casey Anthony and a bit of Snapped. You would think we were plotting our enemies deaths, in actuality, it was the back-and-forth banter as we watched that made our tears transform into laughter. It would have given any fly on the wall pause to hear our conversations. Obviously, I know this habit is a weird one. But those long nights of crime got us through the terrible year when Sissy's marriage ended and we found out what it took to bury two parents.
Time passed and great things happened in our family after that terrible year. Sissy met Kyle, her now husband, and he fit in like a long lost puzzle piece. Kyle didn't even blink an eye when Sissy requested that I always have a place to stay in their home, and that she be able to spend Thanksgiving with me while he hunted. (Remember y'all, we are southern.) Internally I was so relieved to know that this new chapter of my sister's life, included me. She was happy and I was still a priority. That's love. That was not the only thing that stayed the same though. Every time I would visit their home, inevitably, Sissy and I will venture off to our king sized island to consume hours of a series on television. This was our thing. Kyle would walk in, take a look at us, and go about his evening. Most of the time our go-to is "Friends," but then a new show,"The Crown" entered our rotation and it garnered a lot of late night laughter. One day, after watching several seasons with me mentally counting how many times my sister would say, "Wait, what did they say?" we decided to fire up the subtitles. It was a game changer. What in the hell had we really been watching? And so we rewatched all the seasons and we were astounded at how much neither of us caught the first time. At about 1:00 am, we finished a long string of episodes when my sister got up to call it a night. Our muscles had begun to atrophy and so when she stood up to leave she hobbled out of the room. Not before turning to me to casually say, "You know, after I watch The Crown, the voice in my head starts to sound British." I laughed so hard that I had to bury my head in the pillow to keep from waking up the whole house. I know this is one of those, "You just had to be there" moments, but there is nothing like a friend that happens to also be your sister. They facilitate the best kind of W.F.B. Thus, living an ocean away from her, weighs on my heart at the holidays, especially, Thanksgiving.
Now because of the deal she struck with her loving husband Kyle, and the fact that he wants to make my sister happy so he honors it, Sissy always comes for Thanksgiving. Our time together goes something like this: Sissy and I make a huge list and go shopping for all the jiffy corn bread mix a grocery cart can hold. We usually quarrel on the way there because she hates the way I drive and I hate the way she co-pilots. After grocery shopping, we spend all day chopping, and cutting and prepping for our Thanksgiving meal. She tells me she is my "kitchen-bitch," and I tell her she's welcome to be in charge. Then the day arrives. I go over the top with a vision of a massive table scape and Sissy labels me "extra" while I am spray painting pine cones. After cooking and decorating for hours, we sit down for a delicious meal, sometimes in our pajamas, and we reminisce on our colorful family history. This is where we then forfeit the kitchen clean up for a dose of murder, drama and napping. Like my sister's husband, Zac doesn't bat an eye, not even when he has to wake one of us up to go to our own beds. He knows that this W.F.B. completes my holiday and makes my heart happy.
It is fitting that 2020 will be the first year in a long time my sister and I have not been together. I think we can all agree this year was a shit sandwich. Mounds of disappointment and isolation, topped with pipping hot stress, sandwiched between two thick slices of bitter bread. A proper shit sandwich ladies and gentlemen! I think we can also agree it has made us stop and take stock. What did we have to complain about in 2019? During the holidays, I can get so wrapped up in all the ways I fall short, all the things that I am missing, all the relationships I wish were better. The holidays have a way of magnifying both the good AND the bad. It's true, Zac found me crying on the couch while I watched "The Crown." It was bound to happen, I'm allowed to be sad. I can't change that this was not the holiday for us to see our families and experience the yearly dose of W.F.B. Instead, I remembered that WHAT WE FOCUS ON, GROWS. So I adjusted my attitude. If I am going to really be thankful, genuinely thankful, I have to change my 2020 complaints to a checklist of all the positive outcomes. I focused on the joy of our new chapter in England, the joy that comes out of years of weird family behavior and the joy in being able to celebrate thankfulness even in the middle of a world gone mad. I can appreciate 2020's authenticity. I'm trying here. On Thanksgiving, I got in the kitchen with my girls and we cooked up one of the best Thanksgiving meals yet. (In one of the smallest ovens, I might add.) Note: I am also grateful to my mom who invested hours teaching me how to cook oversized meats and undersized helpings of fresh vegetables, thanks Mona. Sure, it wasn't exactly the same, Arden never said she was my "kitchen-bitch" even though she kind of was, and it didn't end with a nap and crime tv. However this Thanksgiving I was truly thankful for our family, both here and away... the weirder, the better!
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