>>> The Rollercoaster of Drama
By staff writer Simonne Cullen
November 27, 2005

Thanksgiving is a time to gather around a table full of food, with friends and family, faces glowing, big roast turkey glistening, apple cinnamon cider scent filling the house, and happiness in the air. Yeah, in Hallmark greeting cards and long distance commercials. In reality, which most of us choose to ignore in college, it hits us good and hard in the holiday season when it's time to come home.

Ever get home and your parents are still ordering you around like you're in kindergarten? You're trying to help your mom in the kitchen and after she asks you to slice some celery for the stuffing, she says with deliberate slowness, “The knife is sharp. Don't cut yourself.” Or she tells you to move the pot of boiling potatoes but tells you, “Be sure to use the pot holders, that's hot water the taters are soaking in.” I'd like to think that we all went through the college application process, got into a respectable university, and minus the occasional drunken fall, have done pretty well at avoiding freak accidents. But apparently your parents don't have the same confidence. And you'd just like to scream at them, “Thank you, I thought you could only make mashed potatoes in ice cold water and knives were only toys that toddlers could play with. Thank goodness you straightened me out. I could have really hurt myself. Oh look there's the vodka, I think I'll just have a drink of it the traditional way: pint glass, no ice no mixer.”

“If it's your first time meeting your boyfriend's parents, it's a perfectly good time to panic. Forget job interviews, this is where you're really being judged.”

My mom is a one woman show. A one woman crazy show. Maybe all moms preparing Thanksgiving dinners are. “The lobster bisque might offset the balsamic vinaigrette white wine homemade dressing, and we have eleven people this year, which means the place settings will be uneven which is absolutely maddening, and you're not cutting that celery right, I said small sliver-like pieces not chunky! Do you not understand English? Maybe I should speak in College Drunkenglish and you'll understand better.” And that's the moment mom turns into a complete irrational monster. Nothing anyone does is right, but when you suggest she do it herself she screams, “I'm not Jesus! I can't do everything!”

Does anyone have that mom who has to have all of the Christmas decorations up the day of Thanksgiving, so right when you get home from your long drive she shoves Santa, his entourage of reindeer, and eight packs of icicle Christmas lights at you and says, “You're in charge of the front lawn, and don't come inside ‘til it’s done. Your sister is putting up the tree…I had to pull her away from cutting the vegetables, she was getting antsy with the knife. Kisses! I'm off to baste!” It's like your mom has gone from sweet loving mother Teresa to Bri from desperate housewives with an evil streak.

And someone in this house is bound to get stabbed at Thanksgiving. I don't know whether it's because we have such a small kitchen and everyone is just bumping into each other because space is a factor, but I always feel like I'm in a Steven Segal movie. Everyone is running around, bumping into with butcher knives and potato peelers in hand, narrowly missing stabbing each other. Could we please be more careful! As much as I loathe being here there is one place worse and that is the ER. The ER is the absolutely the worst place to be on Thanksgiving. Three years ago there was a freak accident involving an out of control electric carver, a lot of broken glass, and Cousin Lou's finger tip bleeding into the mashed potatoes and we had to book it to the hospital. And we weren't the only family in crisis there. Kids with marshmallows shoved up their nostrils. Broken noses from touch football games. Bad turkey burns (when you burn yourself taking the turkey out of the oven). There were so many other families there it looked like a scene from “Cheaper By The Dozen 3: Dozen Does Blue Cross Blue Shield.”

Occasionally we get a break from our family and their craziness, and get to join another family and enjoy their dysfunction during the holiday. Ever have a friend freak out when she has to meet her boyfriend's parents for the first time? She's over anxious and begs you to skip your morning classes so she can go through her entire closet to pick out the perfect twenty outfits for the four-day weekend. She's rifling through her closet pulling out everything she owns: sweaters, scarves, scandalous un-dry-cleaned cocktail dresses with jizz stains on it, the whole winter line from Bloomingdale's…everything scattered around the room. “This top is for the cooking portion of the day, this knee-length skirt is for the actual meal, and this sweater is for tea with his grandma on Friday.” I'm sorry, are you going to England? Because I was under the impression that you were going to Albuquerque. Has the traditional tea time crossed the Atlantic and become very trendy in the great state of New Mexico? Who knows, but I would go as conservative as possible—last thing you want to hear whispered at the table is senile grandma asking if Uncle Sal brought a prostitute to dinner…again.

If this is the first time you're meeting your boyfriend's parents, it's a perfectly good time to panic. Not only are you meeting his mom and dad, but you're meeting his entire extended family. Forget job interviews, this is where you're really being judged. Fifteen to twenty pairs of eyes on you just waiting to drop the cranberry sauce all over the floor. And honestly the only eyes you care about are your boyfriend's mom’s. No mom ever really wants to see their son in the hands of another woman. I don't care how much she gushes and fawns over you, she's judging you. You could be photographed embraced in her arms wearing matching pumpkin knitted sweaters, and the only thought in her mind is, “She better not be thinking she's going to bear my seven male grandchildren. You call those skinny bones holding up that skirt childbearing hips?”

Moms are the toughest to win over no doubt, but the next most challenging crowd is the siblings. Everyone always says it's best to be yourself in these situations, but with all the anxiety and nerves who can really be themselves? You want to impress these people. You want to prove to them their brother chose the cream of the crop. This is why, ladies, you must always wear your hair in a sleek pony tail. That way you can play touch football with the brothers without worrying about the thirty bobby pins holding up your curls, and avoid any younger sisters from turning you into a model for the exclusive Rainbow Bright hair care and accessory collection. After all if there's anything worse than grandma calling you a hooker, it would be the special needs child she sends 80 cents a month to feed.

There's always an awkward moment when visiting the parents. Every family has their problems, some just do a better job at hiding the dysfunction from their guests than others. Grandpa starts raiding the liquor cabinet during breakfast? “Oh he has a bit of an alcohol problem.” Bit of a problem? You mean that's vodka he's washing down his morning pills with? Or mom and dad are having some minor marital complications, and your boyfriend tells you their in the middle of a trial separation, but no one else in the family knows. Great, so your mom wasn't rolling her eyes at me when I asked her to pass the green bean casserole, it was at your father who muttered the green beans sucked. Okay good to know. And that's when you realize everyone there is putting on a show for you too. No family, no matter how hard they try is by any means normal. So take a break from the dysfunction while you can, Christmas is only a mere four weeks away.