Although she says it feels like in happened in a previous life, and almost doesn’t seem real at this point artist Barbara Stanton still remembers every detail of a series of hellish Thanksgivings tied to her now ex-husband and his family. The first two set the tone but the third is when the turkeys come home to roost.
It was one of our very first Thanksgivings as a married couple and we had a three-month old child. We went to my grandparents' house, which was a lovely gathering with wonderful food. My husband picked fights with my grandpa and uncle and I couldn't figure out what his deal was. We did eat dinner but left early, my husband in a huff.
On the way home we had a big fight because he said everyone was phony and only pretending to be nice. He accused my grandfather of not loving me as much as he loved me. He claimed my uncle was drunk. He said he would not go to any more of my family's events in his lifetime, and he stuck to that pledge. When I went, I had to go alone with my kids.
The next year we went to his relatives' for Thanksgiving. It started out fine but about halfway through everyone was screaming and yelling. He had four brothers and three step-dads (although only one was there!) so there was a lot of drama. I realized why he had been so uncomfortable at my normal family gathering: it was a completely unfamiliar concept.
Several years later, when I had two young children, ages three and six, I got his mother to allow me to host Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. Although I’d never cooked a turkey myself, I thought I was capable and was excited to do it. And I did have a mom I could consult. But his mother insisted on bringing the turkey, so I decided to make a ham. Three of his brothers were coming with their little kids, plus his mom and current step-dad.
My husband was an avid pot smoker and his brother was even worse. The day before Thanksgiving, the brother came over and raided my husband's stash. My husband was irate. He went over to his brother’s house but when no one was home he left a note on the door threatening to kill him the next time he saw him. So my brother-in-law called his mother and told her he and his family weren't coming because his life had been threatened. (I told my mother-in-law that the fight was over a "bud," figuring she would think "Budweiser.")
Thanksgiving morning everyone showed up around the same time. The mother walked in with the turkey but announced she wouldn't be staying because then she wouldn’t see her other grandchildren on Thanksgiving. So she was going to the brother’s house. They dropped the food, kidnapped my kids and went out the door. My husband had a raging fit. Luckily he didn’t blame me. He left in yet another huff, and I don’t know where he went.
So within 20 minutes of their arrival, everyone had left and I was all alone with a full Thanksgiving dinner. The next day I invited some friends over and we had a big dinner with the leftovers.
I told my husband I would never have his family over to my house again. No one ever apologized to me.
Check back later for hellish Christmas stories!
Originally published Nov.13, 2008.