By Glenda Price: New Mexico columnist
Most families make special arrangements to get together for Thanksgiving or Christmas. There’s a belief that family gatherings are joyous, love-filled events.
I know one family that pretty much decided that love-filled stuff was a myth. The last such gathering they had, several years ago, left them wondering if their family is somehow abnormal. Since then, though, they’ve heard of other families with similar problems.
First problem is the weather, most always atrocious that time of year — cold, maybe snowy, probably windy. Still, for many years everybody braved the foul weather and showed up at the ranch.
Always, Grandpa had a bunch of chores saved up for the guys, all involving trudging out in the cold. That year the regular cattle feeding and ice breaking couldn’t be done until the flat on the pickup was changed. Grandpa swore that tire had been fine last night, and got upset when nobody believed him.
Inside the house, Grandma had chores saved, too. Some family members decided they’d rather be outside with cranky Grandpa instead of gushy, sweety-acting Grandma. Still, they all pitched in and fixed the leaky faucet and finished making the extra beds.
Everybody had brought food, so dinner was fairly easy to get served. Even the “kids’ table” looked nice, though every kid’s ambition was to get old enough not to have to eat at that table.
After dinner, the guys all retired to the television and the women were stuck with the messy kitchen and dining room.
Finally, after everything was presentable again the women joined the men, and the conversations began, although Grandpa’s hearing had gotten so bad they had to shout in order to be heard over the blasting television. Somebody turned it down, which upset Grandpa.
“I was watching that,” he complained.
Nobody replied and, since he was angry anyway, Grandpa turned to his daughter, “How do you like what YOUR president did this time?”
Before he could continue, his daughter decided she’d had enough of his “attitude,” and lit into him. When she pointed out Grandpa had bragged about having voted for that president, Grandma jumped in with, “That was before we knew him, really.”
The kids, cousins from 8 to 14, knew what was coming and went into another room to play a board game. In less than half an hour angry voices blasted from the game room, and the 8-year old girl ran out crying, “He cheats at every single game.” The guilty one, the 14-year old, declared his innocence, of course.
The grownups couldn’t get involved because they were in the midst of their own shouting matches. The two sons-in-law put on their heavy coats and went outside. They sat in a Suburban and listened to CDs for at least two hours.
The next morning nobody spoke during breakfast. It seems that time some comments went too far. A few days later one daughter confided to a friend: “I’m no longer going to pretend my family is normal, whatever that is.”