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Shades of Thanksgivings Past: Post Thanksgiving Stress Disorder

Posted: Nov 23, 2009

As we approach another holiday season, I thought I would repost an article I wrote the week after Thanksgiving one year ago. I called it "PTSD: Post Thanksgiving Stress Disorder." . -------

December 7, 2008
Well, here we are again. Thanksgiving has come and gone. The carcass has been picked (in more ways than one), the leftovers frozen, the hangovers have been medicated with the hair of the dog, and families continue to perpetuate the myth that Norman Rockwell really was right about the holidays after all. But we know better.

I was in the check-out line at Wal-Mart on Tuesday before the big day, and everyone was wishing one another a Happy Thanksgiving. I said in a distinctly audible voice, "I just hope no one gets into a fight." A hush fell over everything, and then the middle-aged African American checker turned to me and said, "I know what you mean, honey. After all, it is family." She knew what everyone else was in denial about. We were all secretly praying that family members would not eviscerate one another over the pumpkin pie.

This year's celebration was one of our best, due in part to the fact that I had just watched the "Boston Legal" Thanksgiving program. If Crane, Poole, and Schmidt could manage not to slaughter one another as they gathered together to break bread, then surely the Laubenthal-Farlow clan could manage as well.

As everyone knows, familial relationships are fragile at best—they hang by a thread like the sword of Damocles, ready to fall at any moment and decapitate all beneath. Most families can manage to preserve the appearance of civility for a limited amount of time, but if the celebration stretches beyond the requisite three hours and the libations continue to flow, you can bet that someone's head is going to roll.

Been there, done that. But this year was different. My sister and I are not in denial about our families—rather we are doggedly determined! We will all get together and we will make nice. So we round up all the family—in-laws and outlaws, and other laws—and we behave, or else. My sister collects all the available members of her husband's family, and I gather together my two offspring, their significant others, my ex-husband (their father) and his wife (my old friend).

All of us are older now. We have no need of ancient rivalries. Some of our dearest friends and family members have passed on to their reward. Their absence is a palpable presence whenever we gather together. Almost too palpable.

For the holiday dinner, I was making do with old place cards, as is my wont, by refolding the cards and writing a new name on the front. For my ex's family, I just folded over an old card, wrote Laubenthal on it, and set it on the table.

Just as my daughter was sitting down to eat, she gave me one of "those" looks and I rushed over to the table. She picked up the card and said, "Did you see this?" On the back of the card was written the name Charlie. Charlie was our dear friend and the ex-husband of my ex-husband's wife who had died suddenly six months previously.

My ex-husband looked at me with stunned disbelief, and I merely shrugged my shoulders and said, "That just proves Charlie is still with us." Then I smiled and walked away. I really do think Charlie was there, laughing his head off.

---Penne J. Laubenthal

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PenneElk says...

I believe that. He was a "trickster" all his life. :-)

Bill Cochran says...

I'll bet Charlie put the card there himself.

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