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A Valley Thanksgiving

| Monday, November 20, 2017

As Thanksgiving approaches, the time of talking about how weird, crazy or annoying the family you will be spending the holidays with is upon us. Everyone likes to think that their family is the most sitcom-worthy around this time of year, and that nobody could ever top them. Well, you can all put down the measuring tapes because the clear winner of “Most Absolutely Mesmerizing Yet Kind of Terrifying Family to Be with at The Holidays” goes to mine, the Valley clan. Take a deep breath as we delve into the “Malcolm in the Middle” episode that will be my house this coming Thursday.

Before the day arrives, it is essential to take a roll call of who will be dining with you to account for the various allergies and “allergies,” but mostly to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for the clashing personalities that will be arriving. We have your run-of-the-mill Wine Moms and Vodka Aunts, but we also breed our own special batch of crazy. Some iconic members of Thanksgiving Maelstroms include a flat-earther, an aunt who does not know the difference between digestive sensitivities and hypochondria and a relative who insists on bringing the Chihuahua to the house of whoever is hosting. Although he has not been present for the festivities for several years, my personal favorite character is a cousin who voluntarily goes spelunking in South American bat caves. All of these eccentric members under one roof makes for conversations you would not believe.

Dinner usually stays pretty uneventful until about halfway through the meal. This is when my family prefers to start rolling out the wine, beer and special-occasion liquors, and this is when the real fun begins. As everyone finishes eating, my family breaks into subgroups and promptly begins devising strategies for tearing down every other subgroup in the room. Traditional teams include my mom and her sisters versus the brothers-in-law, or my dad’s brothers versus everyone else’s wives and kids. Ancient Roman war strategies do not hold a candle to this Valley tradition. All this is in preparation for the next and arguably most memorable stage: the annual Airing of the Grievances. My friends, it is truly a sight to behold. Each subgroup takes their respective turn and brutally tears down the self-esteem of every other subgroup in the room, each pack waiting to take their turn. Sometimes, if someone is feeling particularly rowdy, an impromptu roughhousing match breaks out and the rest of us have to shout from the sidelines to avoid any serious injury. We have thus far avoided broken bones, I am proud to say.

After everyone has calmed down, we start to have genuine heart-to-hearts. I recommend staying a wallflower during this chapter, and simply listening to the conversations to use as blackmail later. Some memorable chats from years gone by include the flat-earther defending his case, my cousin accepting a dare to walk around the yard with the turkey carcass on her head and my dad’s brothers apparently having a contest to see who can reference the most movies made between 1968 and 2012. A true winner has yet to be named.

As much as stress plays a pivotal role in my family’s holiday dinners, it really is something I look forward to during the year. I don’t know of another family which has as many memorable moments from these events as mine.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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