The Art of Holiday Conversation

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time. I spend $100 on fancy groceries, plan an elaborate menu of Norman Rockwellian delights, wake up at 5am to prepare and send smells wafting through the house like hugs from long-ago relatives. Arrange mini pumpkins on the ne’er-used dining room table at place settings right out of Downton Abbey. All this so my precious offspring can sit down to the feast and ask for “Ramen, please.” 

Fortunately, I have other family members I invite as much for material as for their company. I always enjoy telling and re-telling some of my little brother’s antics that would make the Mayhem guy laugh so hard he ugly-cries. 

So, if you have mixed relationships in your family… like republicans and democrats, or things that really matter like Picard vs. Kirk—and you’re wondering how to get through the dinner, there are always a few safe topics we humans have in common. After all, you do have to wrap it all up and get to Walmart by 3am. 

Cousin Donna… do you ever pull out your phone to see what time it is, then after scrolling through your Facebook feed and texts, look at a clock to see what time it is? 

Adam, ever catch yourself saying, “Yeah, I know!” when you have no idea what the person said but you’re too embarrassed to admit you didn’t hear it twice already?

Dad, do you make a mental note of the last car in the drive-through line when you walk into the restaurant so you can be sure you won at getting your food faster? 

I like to notice the car in front of me when I change lanes in traffic to make sure I stay ahead of it because I made the right choice. 

Aunt Fluffy… don’t you say “Moo” (even in your head) every time you pass a field full of cows? 

Uncle Buck, did you ever decide what to say if you run into Matthew McConaughey at Whataburger?

Aunt Beverly, ever use the condensation on your cup to wash the sticky off your fingers? 

Yes, I still tell the sales lady I’d like to try on the dress after looking at the price tag and there’s no way in the world I can afford it, but don’t want her to know that. 

Andrew, do you still count the grocery bags you can hang on your arm to see if you can do it all in one trip? 

Do any of you tell the doctor the absolute truth about how many alcoholic drinks you have per month? Or how much exercise you do? 

No, I never tell the truth about flossing. 

Paige, how many times have you tripped over your own feet and decided to jog a little bit to cover it up? 

Okay, Amy, how many times have you taken the box or the bag out of the trashcan because you already forgot the directions on how to prepare the food that was in it? 

Those should get you through the main course at least. Still, if things get quiet and you begin to worry if they’re having a good time, stir the pot a little with, “Hey, why didn’t you bring [name of person you just broke up with]?” If all else fails, never forget the nuclear option; announce loudly, “I [like/don’t like] the President and think he’s doing a [good/awful] job. What do you all think?” That one has been flaming dinner tables since 1789.

You may be late to Walmart after that, but you’re going to have all kinds of new stories to tell when your in-laws come for Christmas.

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