Together for the Holidays

This year, my family will be together for Thanksgiving. I don't mean my extended family, I mean my husband, son and I will eat together. That may not sound like a big deal, but considering that my husband and I separated recently, I think it is.

My parents divorced in the 1970s, the Dark Ages of splitting up. No one knew what the hell they were doing back then. Oh, there was some vague understanding that one parent shouldn't badmouth the other, but no collective wisdom beyond that. No Oprah. No Elizabeth Gilbert. We had Dr. Spock and Elizabeth Taylor and had to piece it together from there. If there was actually a divorcee in the neighborhood, which was unlikely, she was considered a dangerous hussy or a pathetic loser, possibly both.

Holidays were especially fraught, as embarrassed children had to explain to their friends about "Daddy's new apartment." Yes, at the time kids were ashamed when their parents got divorced. They didn't have the examples of scores of classmates, teachers, neighbors and celebrities to reassure them that they weren't "different."

For the first Thanksgiving after my parents divorced, my mother invited my dad to come for dinner. She felt intuitively that holidays should be spent as a family. Well-meaning, yes, but intuition-wise, not so impressive: dinner was a disaster. I've learned the hard way that holidays should be spent in a way that provides the least possible anxiety and the most possible calories and, if relevant, presents. But 30 years ago all we had to go on was our flawed gut, and that gut called for togetherness at all costs.

We all like to believe we're different from our parents, but I think we just make different mistakes. Certainly I know my divorce will be different from my parents'. My (still current) husband and I respect each other and our joint savings account too much to get into a long, drawn-out, bitter legal battle. We love our son too much to have a Thanksgiving dinner that is more about posturing than pumpkin pie.

So this year we will head over to the home of a close and understanding friend. I'm sure the day will be calmer than last year, when a blow-up in the car on the way to dinner almost killed Thanksgiving completely. Of course, my own intuition isn't always on target either. Let's just cross our fingers.

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