Since before we were married, my wife and I have hosted our families for Thanksgiving, mostly because we secretly consider ourselves to be the best cooks in the group. These annual dinners come with the normal family stressors: sister shows up with a ShopRite pumpkin pie; folks show up late without calling; father-in-law and mother-in-law won’t stop bickering. You know, normal family stuff. But this year, we’re presented with a scenario we’ve never encountered before: Our family members are the enemy.
OK, OK, so of course they’re not actually our enemies. But what is true about every single one of our family members coming for Thanksgiving this year is this: They all consider Donald Trump’s victory a victory for themselves, for America and for righteousness. In other words, pretty much the opposite of what a majority of Americans who voted think, and very much the opposite of what my wife and I believe.
I really have no idea how this happened, but it’s real.
My sister showed up at our house a few weeks before the election with a Donald Trump Halloween mask and one of those “Make America Great Again” baseball caps. She isn’t one of those Donald Trump fans who are Donald Trump fans because they hate Hillary Clinton. (Don’t get me wrong: My sister does hate Hillary Clinton.) No, my sister is a Donald Trump fan because she loves Donald Trump. It’s that simple.
My mom and I haven’t actually spoken about the election results, but I’m pretty sure she has never voted for a Democrat. And there’s no way in hell that she voted for Hillary Clinton.
And my wife’s parents, who emigrated from India in the 1980s, well … let’s just say that my mother-in-law texted my wife the day after the election to say, in all caps, “OUR MIGHTY GOD CAME THROUGH FOR US.”
I tell you all of this not to disparage our family members, whom we love deeply, but to illustrate for you just how deep the divide is between us and them. And this is why we came very close to canceling Thanksgiving. Last week, when my wife and I discussed the possibility, the election results were still very raw. We couldn’t imagine sitting at a table surrounded by some of Donald Trump’s biggest fans.
We’re not alone.
Once I started asking around, it was downright easy to find people who are absolutely dreading Thanksgiving this year in a way that they’ve never dreaded a family holiday before. And almost as easy to find people who have, in fact, canceled their Thanksgiving plans.
I talked to several people in this position, none of whom wanted me to use their names. One friend said he was supposed to host 12 family members for Thanksgiving — most of them Trump supporters — and now he’s “been called away on business.” And some of those people were coming from far away.
And a 25-year-old acquaintance tells me that she and her boyfriend were supposed to go to her parents’ house and then to his, and now they’re not going anywhere but their own apartment in the city.
“We’re opting out of either and attempting to make turkey in our apartment,” she says. “The only dinner guests we want are our dogs.”
“My Italian family has voiced their grave disappointment in me not coming to a family event,” she explains, adding that the election has caused other drastic changes related to her family. “I also deleted my Facebook account after the election. I opened a new one but haven’t added my family back yet. It’s the best decision I ever made.”
In the end, we realized that canceling Thanksgiving would have been the wrong decision for us for a variety of reasons. Yes, it’s going to be awkward, but we’ve been hosting these same family members for nearly 15 years, and we’re not going to let politics or Donald Trump drive a wedge in between us. If we can’t make peace and reconcile with — or at least sit down at the dinner table with — our own family members, then we’re really in trouble, right?
What we are going to do is drop a line to those coming for Thanksgiving. It will go something like this:
We’re so glad you are coming over for Thanksgiving this year. One request: No politics. Oh, and no store-bought pies or white zinfandel, please.