Thanksgiving is almost here. Yay! I mean … Yay??? Thanksgiving and Christmas – a.k.a. “the holidays” – come with expectations. Advertisers, artists and our own childhood memories set standards that are often impossible to achieve. Every year, I have high hopes for a charming, Norman Rockwell-type holiday. My holidays always start out Rockwellian, but often end up Orwellian.
This year, heading into the holiday season, I prayed. And, I don’t mind telling you, I channeled the spirit of my grandmother for guidance.
Grandma seemed to have a knack for creating magical holidays. When I started reminiscing, a few images popped into my head. First was ribbon candy. Grandma always set out ribbon candy, which no one ever ate, so I suspect she set out the same ribbon candy every year. She also set out hors d’oeuvres, but if she caught anyone indulging, she’d scold them. “You’ll spoil your supper,” she’d say.
I don’t remember any family squabbles, unless I count that time grandma moved the settee in front of the TV so everyone would have to visit instead of watching football. The guys easily could have moved the settee, but instead, they sent my uncle into the kitchen to negotiate a compromise. It took quite a bit of cajoling, but grandma finally acquiesced on the condition the TV be turned off during dinner. I think that was her plan all along.
On those rare occasions when a family member started to act up, grandma would put a swift end to it. It was weird, because she would be in the kitchen, a quarrel would begin in the living room, and all of a sudden, she’d be in the living room, waving a big spoon around. All she’d have to say was, “Hey! Behave yourselves!” Or, “Hey! Mind your manners.” Or, sometimes, just “Hey!” And all these grown folks would just do what she said. It was impressive.
Grandma was in charge, and not just on the holidays. She was always the first one to help if someone needed it. But she didn’t think twice about hurting your feelings if she felt you deserved it.
If you crossed her, you could expect retaliation. You also could expect forgiveness. Eventually.
I miss her. She protected me, and she loved me unconditionally. She set the bar pretty high, but she always was clear about her expectations; and consistent. And, most importantly, if you didn’t know how to live up to her standards, she showed you how and explained why it was important. Although, she would pour herself a glass of beer and light up a cigarette first. She wasn’t perfect, after all.
So, I conclude with some advice: Expect excellence, not perfection. If you have to tell someone to go home or stay home, you don’t have to feel bad about it. Let everyone know ahead of time that you won’t tolerate any beefing on Turkey Day, and they’ve got one week from now to get their minds right.
It wouldn’t hurt to practice waving a big spoon around, either.
Lania Rocha is a staff writer for the View Newspapers. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.