Alexis A. McCoy Gonzalez
The holidays are here and like most people around the world, I am running around preparing for family and friends to visit and enjoy the holidays. Although the holidays are exciting, it can be very stressful. This year my husband and I decided to host Thanksgiving dinner at our house and now that we are one week away, I’m regretting having made that decision. From the day we sent out the invitation there has been nothing but drama. In most families you have that one person that wants to highjack a specific holiday. This person in our family just so happens to be my wonderful, amazing, kindhearted mother-in-law. For the past 40 years she has been hosting Thanksgiving dinner in her home. “It’s a tradition!” her words not mine.
So, when she received our invitation, the following day she calls my husband all upset and trying to guilt trip him into convincing me to cancel my Dinner plans. For the first time in our three years of marriage, he stood up to his mother by telling her that if she wanted to host Thanksgiving dinner at her home she can. Unfortunately, we won’t be attending because we will be celebrating thanksgiving at our home. Of course she is more than welcome to attend. Shocked by her son’s response she quickly replied, “well I guess we will be having Thanksgiving dinner at your house”. The conversation was going great until he opened his big mouth and said, “you can help Lilly cook, I think she would love that”.
When those words fell out of his mouth my stomach instantly dropped. Me working on Thanksgiving dinner with my mother-in-law was going to be a complete disaster and I was obviously right. From the beginning of the menu planning there were issues. Everything had to go her way from the way we set-up the table, to the way we platted the food. I couldn’t have an opinion or an idea about what was happening in my own home! When I would mention it to my husband, he would passively say, “she’s just trying to help”. I knew for a fact she wasn’t being helpful, she was trying to highjack my thanksgiving dinner. Things took a seriously drastic turn when I came home to find my grandmother’s China in a trash bag by the garbage.
When I was growing up my grandmother would always decorate the table with her beautiful China. It was the first expensive things my grandfather purchased for her. She loved that China and took great care of them. When my husband and I got married my mother passed it down to us. This Thanksgiving I was excited to have the opportunity to set my table with my grandmothers China. She loved Thanksgiving so much and setting my table with her China would make me feel closer to her. So, when I walked into the house and saw the table decorated in a completely different way than I had planned and my grandmothers China sitting on floor in a trash bag next to the trash can, I lost it. I quickly confronted my mother-in-law and I asked her “why is my grandmother’s China in a trash bag?” She quickly responded dismissively and said “those dishes are old, so I got you some new ones”. Next thing I know, I blacked out in a rage and started pushing everything off of the table and screaming for her to get out.
She quickly grabbed her things and left the house slamming the door behind her. In my rage I sent a mass text to everyone invited notifying them that Thanksgiving Dinner was cancelled. I was over competing with my mother-in-law and fighting to have a space in her family. As much as I wanted to host dinner at our home, I was tired of being disrespected. The next morning, I woke up to go downstairs and clean up the mess I made. To my surprise everything was already cleaned up and the table was set with my grandmothers China. When I walked into the kitchen my mother-in-law and my husband were they’re putting away the groceries. When I saw her, I quickly turned around and headed back upstairs to the bedroom. She followed me. When I reached the bottom of the stairs she asked if she could speak with me for a moment. A huge part of me wanted to say no but I knew saying that wouldn’t solve anything. So, I slowly turned around and walked into the living room to sit on the couch. She joined me by sitting in the chair across from me.
She started by apologizing and went on to explain that when her husband passed away, my husband became the person she depended on. When we got together, she knew she wasn’t going to be the only special lady in his life and when I decided to host Thanksgiving dinner at our house, she felt like I was trying to take her place in the family. Instead of looking at it as a bonding moment between the two of us, she looked at it as competition. As I sat there listening to her explain her behavior, my anger began to subside until it went away completely. When she finished speaking, I said, “we are a family, and we might not see eye to eye on everything or agree all the time. Still, we must respect one another. I am not trying to replace you or take your spot. What you do for this family is so important and so valued and I don’t think I would be able to handle it all. So, let’s start fresh”. I went on to say “Mom, would you please help me host Thanksgiving Dinner here at my house?” She quickly responded yes, and we both get up to embrace one another.
Family isn’t perfect and that’s what makes life entertaining. My mother-in-law and I still have some kinks to workout in our relationship, but I am excited for the first step. I hope you guys have a wonderful Thanksgiving and remember perfect families are overrated.