Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Thanksgivings I Love to Forget

Some years ago, when I was a young bride of 18, I was introduced to The Peyton Family Thanksgiving Tradition. This was an annual event, thrown by my ex-husband's very sweet cousin, Sherry. 

Sherry was a stunningly beautiful blond: The product of two mutant parents, she was the gem that stood out in the scrub brush studded wasteland of central Florida. 

It was no wonder that her wealthy husband, Tom, discovered her one day when she was tending her parents' shop and proceeded to sweep her off her feet and marry her. This true Cinderella story resulted in a lavish lifestyle, a lovely mansion, and three children who grew up with the Bellamy brothers' kids. Sherry, ever kind, always opened her home to the poor relations each holiday. And so every Thanksgiving and/or Christmas we would all make the trek to Tom and Sherry's.

We weren't the only ones invited. Naturally she also invited other relatives and her parents, whom we'll call Dixie and Bubba. Let me describe them for you. 

Dixie was an average sized woman, who always wore dresses that were at least 10 years out of date. Her frizzy, mousy brown hair was usually worn in a type of bouffant. She was gap toothed, with a lovely wart on one withered cheek that was perched just below her horn rimmed glasses. 

Bubba was a gangly man who perpetually looked malnourished. He was slightly stooped, so his greasy comb-over was always apparent. He also wore clothes that were at least 10 years out of date, and a rather self-deprecating manner with an ingratiating smile that he flashed nervously about.

Many, many years before, Dixie had met a trucker who was passing through their wilderness. Somehow an unlikely romance had been struck up, and she'd had a torrid affair with him. Bubba had never forgotten or forgiven her for this infraction, and so every family holiday they took out this memory, polished it, and cherishingly re-enacted it for everyone.

Usually the meal would be in full swing when suddenly Bubba would snap something accusatorily at Dixie. Dixie would then go into full blown hysterical dramatics. This would result in her flying down a hallway in the mansion and locking herself into the guest bath. Sherry would then feel obligated to play her part, and she'd sometimes be joined by other women who felt it was their duty to cajole Dixie out of the bathroom. I would never take part in this: Instead, I would sit back and enjoy the show.

In the meantime, Bubba would go outside where he'd angrily pace back and forth, muttering imprecations. Some of the men would then go into their expected roles and join him outside to entreat him to calm down and forgive Dixie once more. I would watch the performance through the floor-to-ceiling windows as he'd gesticulate wildly, the wind whipping chunks of his comb-over erect into a rooster comb, his yellow teeth flashing in the sunlight as he ranted about her past infidelity.

Eventually, Dixie would be coaxed back into the group again, where she'd continue to sniff and look mortally wounded. Finally she'd evolve into forced gaiety, attempting coquettish exchanges with all the guests. Bubba would also be brought back inside, and perch in the front room in an easy chair from which he would silently glower the rest of the day.

When I was finally divorced from my husband, I counted this loss as something to be thankful for. I continue to do so to this day. And so this November I remember Dixie and Bubba thankfully. I will never have another Thanksgiving like that again, God willing.