Keep Thanksgiving Family Feast Fresh, Not Frozen in Time

14 11 2008

. . .and I’m talking about family, not food.  Welcome new faces around America’s ever-growing and changing family table!

Maybe it’s because I’ve always lived in college towns, but every happy family I know, even the real sticklers for tradition, goes by the most expandable, generous definition of family imaginable during the holidays. And miraculously escapes weakening itself!

No family I know, even the most traditional, freezes the family guest list year after year, or soon we’d all be Miss Havisham, a lonely corpse at an unchanging table for one.


You remember this tragic classic, right? She found her love and meant to marry, to create a new family with whom to live and change throughout her life and give thanks for sunlight and growth and wisdom and memories.

But instead Miss Havisham was denied marriage. Without the marriage her heart desired, everything human about her shriveled up and died; she became something so terrible inside and out, that we say it’s impossible: hell frozen over.

She is manic and often seems insane, flitting around her house in a faded wedding dress, keeping a decaying feast on her table, and surrounding herself with clocks stopped at twenty minutes to nine.

. . . Dickens’s own notes indicate that she is only in her mid-fifties. However, it is also indicated that her long life away from the sunlight has in itself aged her, and she is said to look like a cross between a waxwork and a skeleton, with moving eyes.

This November I will give thanks and have hope, that America’s Thanksgiving feast won’t be left decaying on the table, surrounded by a “traditional” home full of clocks stopped at 20 minutes to Prop 8.   But I have to wonder — do we value “the American family” as merely waxwork and skeleton, or a true feast of loving and sharing life, fresh even as it endures, growing and changing and surprising and delighting, even as it honors and celebrates tradition?

Miss Havisham frozen in darkness doesn’t protect her from change. All the damage and decay happens anyway, quicker by clock but an eternity of suffering.

Nance’s 2006 post is both fresh and traditional for this Thanksgiving, especially if it encourages us to recast our own definition of the American family, to invite lonely hearts of Florida and California and Arizona in from their isolation, to share the true-story happy ending of family values by welcoming everyone to the table.

Another reason to homeschool — you can enjoy your family at Thanksgiving. Or any other time of the year!


Without having to fight with the school principal about it —

Work & Family: Keeping kids out of school for family trips

As Thanksgiving nears, Martha Winokur is mounting a minor revolt — against her 17-year-old son’s school.

The school explicitly prohibits missing classes for family vacations and imposes a work penalty on students who do, such as raking leaves or scraping gum off desks. But Ms. Winokur’s family is planning a reunion starting the weekend before Thanksgiving, and she has decided her son will miss school to attend.

“I know it’s against the rules,” the Needham, Mass., mother says she told the school’s dean last week in an email. “But we’re doing it anyway.”

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