There was a post that WordPress mobile is holding hostage that was going to lead up to this post but I’m too congested, groggy and exhausted to fight with electronics today. I had to work yesterday afternoon and most of the overnight. I hand-wrote a blog post while it was quiet, which it wasn’t for very long.
Here’s a re-envisioning of that scrap of paper:
Let me preface with yo soy Tejano.
My mother’s family is Mexican-flavored Jumano Apache. My father’s family is Mexican-flavored Hispanic. We are Tejano. We are American, four generations. We’re more American than we are anything else. We’re Texan before we’re anything else. I only say this because many people are generally confused about me until they know my background.
Thanksgiving is one of those times of year that I have always kind of looked forward to and dreaded at the same time. It’s meaning has changed over time just because we get older and the way we look at the world changes. When you’re a kid in Texas, you have the great privilege to participate in Thanksgiving pageantry in one form or another. Mrs. Campbell’s kindergarten class, back when we only went half a day for kindergarten, was the only time I can really remember the school having Thanksgiving festivities. The school wasn’t the most progressive. Speaking Spanish out of Spanish class (which we didn’t have in the elementary school) was punishable by In-School-Suspension. Says a lot right there.
I just remember the pictures later on. Each of us had to wear something on our heads. A pilgrim hat or bonnet, or a headband with paper feathers stapled to it. For the age of the teacher, the times we lived in, I’m really heartened by the fact that the headdresses were assigned at random. Little white Indians and little brown pilgrims. Native Americans. Yes. We’re a little more politically correct now. When you’re five, you don’t know the difference and you should be allowed a little time to be ignorant and just have a little fun.
Then you grow up and your head is filled with the genocide of the indigenous peoples who helped make that first Thanksgiving possible. It’s easier not to examine it for most people. In this day and age, Thanksgiving has a lot more to do with family and being grateful you can torture each other with their presence once a year.
Thanksgiving used to be mandatory in my family. The only excuse was death. Christmas and Easter were voluntary but Thanksgiving had to be swung somehow. My first full time job, I had it in my contract that I didn’t work Thanksgiving. I worked Christmas and New Year’s and the 4th but never Thanksgiving. Even if I could only go home for a couple of days. It’s that important. Of course when people actually started dropping like flies, it was harder to get people together but we try to get as many of the clan in the same place at the same time. Last year we actually got there on time. My older sister is notorious for being late and holding up lunch. My cunning got us there on time. Of course, this was the same Thanksgiving where I skipped out a day early and had panic attack after panic attack on my way home. Over a man. How dumb was that shit?
Being of Mexican descent in Texas means your Thanksgiving spread will be mostly American but with some Mexican flavor. The stuffing from inside the bird will always be referred to as the relleno. The stuffing cooked outside the bird is stuffing. Just like that. There will be frijoles y arroz and sometimes we can talk someone into making enchiladas but usually that’s reserved for the day after. For a break before the leftover feast begins. Diets to resume on Monday.
It’s a lot of talking, catching up and hugging. My God. The Hugging. I’m not a hugger. I’m one of the greyer of the black sheep. I’ve never been a hugger or a toucher. The family is used to it but I have to hug. My mom always made me. She’s trained me well. She’s been passed for 10 Thanksgivings and I can still feel the prod in the middle of my back to go give someone a hug. Happens now and again with my friends (read: family I chose). I love my family. I love seeing them and having fun but it’s also exhausting. I used to be the kid carrying the book just looking for a corner to hide in until it was time to go home. Now I’m an adult and I have to engage in conversation and defend my single status for yet another year.
How do you cope with explaining Thanksgiving to your family’s little ones when you’re sitting on both sides of the table simultaneously?
I tend to be an asshole and make jokes about everything. We don’t have a connection to the Jumano Apache side. We’ve managed to pick it out when it’s pointed out to us that our family traditions are not actually Mexican or Spanish or American. Then it’s just a moment that passes, reflavored. “Oh. So that’s where we get that from. Huh.” Teaching the little ones is going to be interesting… mostly because they’re all still little enough that they don’t give a crap.
Let the ignorant little bastards play. They’ll earn it later. Like much in life, the rewards come first, hard work comes later.
This year, I may be spending the day with the family I chose. My best friend has extended an invitation and I should probably give her a better answer. I was in the middle of a shitstorm when I got the text. Remind me later. Her family Thanksgiving is much lower maintenance than my family’s is. I’m extremely grateful that I have a place to go since it looks like I won’t be going home. Otherwise, I’d just stay home and sleep and potentially burn my eyes out with Hulu or Netflix.
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!