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Wednesday, Dec. 01, 2004
The Outfoxed Crew made it through Thanksgiving, and I mean both the family Crew and the work Crew. The work Crew is employed, after a fashion, for a few more days.

The family Crew found itself at a reasonably famous local seafood joint (in an area rife with very good seafood joints) at 5 pm on T-Day, slurping she-crab soup and scallops. Unusual, you say, for Thanksgiving? ĎSplanation follows.

See, for 23 years Allyís mother has hosted a traditional hoe-down at her place, and it started off in a not-so-bad sort of way. Ally has an older brother and two younger sisters. It could get testy at times, during the sit down. Normal sibling rivalry and all that. Allyís mom is divorced and glad to be, so there was no head of table stuff, just a bunch of kids slogging food and kicking each other under the table.

Years come and go, we add spouses and their progeny, lots of mouths to feed, and the rivalry has escalated. The brother, he is, God help me, a dipped in shit moron who I avoid at all costs. Ally has some trouble convincing me to even go to a family gathering that we know he will be attending. The man, who is a year older than me, has never married, is quite well educated, has no friends or contact with humanity outside of work (and what exactly he does for work is never explained, but itís a municipal task inside of a faceless building, so Iím guessing beaurocrat). He has the personality of a chair, the face of a carp (and a mullet! An honest to God mullet!), is blindingly tight with money, does not drink or smoke and believes everything told to him by Mother Earth News. And will be the first to smugly tell you that he is the font of wisdom on any and all subjects. All forgivable, I guess, except that, well, he still lives with Mother. Which to me emasculates him of any and all authority on most anything you can name. So weíve got the Smug Brother Who Never Has to Write to Mother.

Then comes Ally, whose role is one of conciliation and reason, and is lovely and kind and all family related things eventually roll to her doorstep. Because she is able to deal with them. And somehow love them all and have a sense of long term relationships. So we have the Loving Sister Who Cements Her Family.

Harley is the sister 10 years younger than Ally, who I wrote about on here once long ago. Her resume would list such pursuits as go-go dancer, crack whore and automobile destroying queen. And thatís the plus side. Somehow, she squeezed in a marriage to a hard working guy and they popped out two kids in short order. Until she spent every last dime on pharmaceuticals and got the boot. The go-go dancer gig might lead you to believe she was a looker, and indeed she was. She had the goods and used them in an expert way, men spent money on her, still do for all I know. But the drugs and the lifestyle and her manipulative ways? All forgivable, except that she now lives with Mother. Yep. No place else to go. She has no job, no car, is in court fighting for custody of her kids (judge ruled against her, you see, and more power to the judge in my opinion). And she and Smugly loathe each other with a fine, reasoned loathe. Oh itís a glorious thing, to see two people who have no life and donít seem to want to. To see them cooped up together and sniping at each other, and even attempt to belittle each other (which I find both funny and sad all in one). So we have Crack Whore Sister Harley. No letters to Mom there, either.

The final sibling in this increasingly dysfunctional crew is one I actually like, Jessie. Sheís a trained artist and a damned fine one. She turned to Ally and I for help back in the college days and we bailed her out of the turmoil of living in the mothers house and got her on her feet, and were glad to do it. Got her Art Education masters and married a pretty cool and hard working lad. Settled into a nice house and seemed to be doing just swell. My kids think she walks on water because she has them over for a weekend and they go out with their aunt and hunt for obscure CDís and go to coffeehouses and she talks to them like adults, you know? But the late breaking news has been hard to swallow. She wants kids and medically canít have any, the husband has turned to drinking and violently so. Impending breakup. Not quite at the point of living with Mother, but you just never know. So we have Heartache Sister Jessie.

And the mother in law. Iíve never really had a problem with the mother in law, mainly because I stay the hell out of her gunsights and offer respect and donít give her reason to think that Iím not a decent husband and a loving dad. I fix her roof, I am polite in her presence, I eat my Thanksgiving meal and thank her for it. She has a lot of issues on her plate, always has. Two husbands, both gone. Raising children on her own. Had a trying career and retired from it, hoping for some respite no doubt, and now has two sods with nowhere else to go camped out in her cave. The Trapped Mother, shall we say.

Obviously, youíd have to be there to fully appreciate, but my sweet Jesus. Thanksgiving. The series of dysfunctions comes a-roaring to a head at that dinner table, and has accelerated upon itself for an entire generation now. It was a fascination to sit at the head of that table for years and watch the meltdown progress, even as Ally campaigned beforehand to get everyone to behave, to get along, to not make the cutting remark or bring up subjects taboo. But they always, inevitably, did. Smug Boy was usually the instigator, but Harley and the mother in law would generally fall in line quickly, and the shrieking would commence. It was like they couldnít help themselves, that the very day was one not for football pugilistics, but for real ones. That sitting at a table full of small kids was the best of times to insult, to rant, to bully and to whine.

And this year, I opted out.

Oh Iíd threatened to. Several times. Ally always got me to go, and not by threat or pleading. I just went because maybe it would be different this year, and the sun would smile on a day of adults and nearly adult children. And by varying degrees, they always proved me wrong.

So this year, I stayed home. Maggie and Ben wanted to stay home too, but Ally had Ďem in the car by dinner time. Beth, I think she went because she loves a good catfight and wanted a front row seat for the noon time slugfest.

Me, I stayed home and watched American Chopper all day. Life was just fine.

But I asked them all. Not to stuff themselves. That in my guilt for not going (heh. right.) I would buy dinner at one of their favorites and we could give thanks that Pops didnít burst a capillary listening to the relatives squeal. A real Thanksgiving, with crustaceans and fins.

And you know what? It felt just fine sitting there, awash with cold beer and an old friend serving it, watching the late game on a gorgeous plasma screen just feet from my ensconsement, lapping up some out of this world crab cakes (100% crab, lightly crusted and butter, thanks) and toying with some oysters.

It felt just so very fine. The five of us, and we spoke kindly and with humor and hugged and ate. A lion and his pride, a comely group of people happy to be where they are and why. I could get very used to that sort of day.

Whether it happens once a year, or always.


Until I can pony up the funds for some gold membership lovinĎ, itĎs easier to find the Guestbook right here. Thanks so much for reading.

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