The Meaning of Thanksgiving? Hint: Not Supernatural Superbeings.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! Hope you’re having a good day with friends and family, or finding something equally nice to do on this cold wintery day here in the Northern Hemisphere. (To those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, why haven’t you invited me down and sent me a plane ticket, you stingy bastards!?)

Weird Family Memories sparked by Thanksgiving:

I had an Aunt Esther on my mother’s side who had an entire room of her house in which children were not permitted. It had a big velvet rope across the arched entryway, like a museum or something. In her normal living room, she had a bowl of candy on the coffee table that was inedible. Real hard candy, but weird tasting, and deliberately chosen so that us kids wouldn’t eat it. It was just there to look at. She DUSTED it. And her middle name was Vendetta. Really.

Another aunt, on my father’s side, just oozed greed. When my father died, I learned he’d transferred the property of our home to his sister, dear Aunt Winona, in order not to lose it when my parents divorced. We three brothers, who would otherwise have been his heirs, met her at the old house to tie up some details. My older brother said “We’re going to honor Daddy’s wishes and not contest this,” and Aunt “Winnie” snapped “Well, if you did, the lawyers would just get it all.” You could practically see her ugly claws digging in. To this day, I remember her as being a dead ringer for Cruella de Vil.

I had a cousin who messed his pants until he was about 13. We’d be playing with him and suddenly smell it. “Tommy, do you need to go to the bathroom?” “No.” His own mother fondly referred to him as “Tommy Shit-In-The-Britch.”

In a reference to the oversized ears which I would later grow into, my Aunt Merle conceived the notion that I loved being called “Mickey Mouse.” I didn’t, but I heard it anyway, until the day she died.

My mother’s brother lived with us off and on for a few years. He had multiple sclerosis and diabetes and walked with two canes. At night he was unable to make it to the bathroom for his frequent urination and so every night filled up a gallon jar next to his bed. It was called Uncle Joe’s Piss Jar. I was in charge of emptying it every morning, and had a horror of accidentally spilling it. He had a room full of boxes of books, and on rainy days I’d be in there looking at that fantastic collection, digging out things to read, esoteric books on science and philosophy, classic novels, all sorts of wonderfully arcane stuff that nobody else in the family could appreciate. Uncle Joe was very probably an atheist — but that was something that could get you thrown out of someone’s house in the Texas of the 1960s (and probably still today), so he never said it — and was the only person in my young life that I could talk to about ideas. He also bought me my first typewriter, a Royal “Safari” portable. (Wish I knew what happened to that thing. I loved it.)

Years later when Uncle Joe died and I was living in another state, my Wicked Stepfather went to Joe’s cabin and pulled out all those books, hundreds of them, and threw them into a big steel burn-barrel. It was an unquestioned fact in his head that nobody would want those books because they were useless trash, and the best thing to do was just burn them. Which he did.

Whew. Family.

 

 

  • lindatseed

    Until I read about families like yours, I forget not everyone had normal families. I really didn’t realize that until I went off to college and was around people from dysfunctional families. If I were to write about my family memories, it would be pretty boring.

    • Hank Fox

      Years after I left home, I once used the word “dysfunctional” to describe our family. My older brother protested “We weren’t dysfunctional, we were just poor.” I suddenly understood that he’d had a very different experience of childhood. I suspect the fact that he was the first-born son made it a more loving environment than the one I grew up in.


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