While I was growing up, my family always had Everyone get together at my grandparents house to stuff themselves into a Triptophan overload for Thanksgiving. My parents, both sets of grandparents, idiot brother, assorted aunts and uncles of my grandparents' generation on my mom's side, various 1st, 2nd, and 3rd cousins of both my parents' and my own generations on my mom's side, and whoever both my idiot brother and myself were dating at the time once we were old enough to date. On any given holiday, there would be from 12 to 30 people stuffed into my grandparents' home to make merry, catch up on familial gossip, act like they hadn't just seen each other a couple of weeks before that when everyone got together for a sunday afternoon harass the kids after church family "dinner," and of course pretend they actually Liked each other.
The spread of food was always both enormous and impressive, and sufficient to have fed entire regions in some starving African countries. There were never leftovers, considering how my assorted kinfolk tended to descend on a laden feast table like vultures. The forced merriment, and the accompanying guilt trips ladled out by my grandmother to any who failed to show up, or failed to eat what she considered a "proper" amount for the Massive effort put into laying out the impressively spread table, left an impression on me that I doubt I will ever forget, even should I live another 1000 years.
By the time I was in my early 20s, and had my first child, I was looking for legitimate excuses to avoid these enforced familial gatherings like the plague they were.
Things have changed in the intervening years though. My mother and her father are both deceased, as are several of the aunts and uncles on that side of the family. My younger sister is deceased and never had any children. Dad's folks are both deceased. Dad is terminally ill and living out his few remaining days in a skilled nursing facility. My idiot brother has learned to stay far Far away from me, lest he end up in a grave himself, since I determined long ago that should he show himself, I would shoot first and not bother to stop and ask questions for the sake of my own life and safety. (What else can you do, when dealing with a sibling who has made attempts on your life in the past?) My various cousins have scattered to the four corners of the globe, and few of them have any interest in ever returning to the hellhole that is Oklahoma where we all grew up. One of my children has been completely out of my life for the past 5 1/2 years living with her father, who has no intention of ever allowing me back into her life. The older one lives with the guilt tripping grandmother whose home childhood holidays were held in, and I avoid that sole remaining grandparent (and her toxicity to anyone with the least modicum of sanity remaining to them) vehemently.
So where does that leave me for the various nationally recognized holidays of primarily Abrahamic origins?
Typically, it leaves me in PEACE and blessed, beautiful, wonderful Quiet. I rarely ever bother with a Turkey for Thanksgiving, simply because it would be ludicrous for me to cook a 10 lb bird just for myself. Instead, I'll either cook a duck (if I'm going to have other "foundlings" for company) or I'll make a pizza or something of that nature.
I have to admit though, this year I do have a few things that I'm actually thankful for. Beyond not having to face the Ordeal of the Dead Bird with my various now parted and scattered family members, that is.
For the first time in 2 decades, I am back in the workforce rather than being a stay at home caregiver for some disabled family member. I'm finally digging myself out the hole that has been slowly but surely growing since dad had his stroke a few years ago. I've managed to weed the obnoxious, the users, abusers, and losers out of my life and off my list of people whom I mistakenly considered Friends. For the first time in almost as long, I'm in a relationship with a man who is Not a self absorbed control freak with hidden misogynist attitudes and no self esteem - I finally managed to get one of the good guys, and he's pretty much the exact Opposite of the type of guy who was in my last 6 or 7 relationships.
Things are finally looking up, and actually Staying up, rather than looking up for a few days and then plummeting to new depths of nasty. I think I like it this way.