There is a painting by Norman Rockwell named “Freedom from Want” that shows a stereotypical suburban American family sitting at a long table, smiling at a turkey that is being placed on a table by a woman who is most likely called grandma by some. Everyone in this painting is smiling and having fun, but there has to be some members of this family that caused conflict before Rockwell painted this photo. If this family is painted as a stereotypical American family, then there has to be some stereotypical family relatives that are similar to the an everyday family Thanksgiving dinner. These personalities would include: the passive aggressive mother-in-law, the line of grunting uncles, the overachieving cousin, and the tipsy aunt.
The Passive-Aggressive Mother-in-Law
“I just assumed yours would be store bought,” she says to the hostess as she hands her a pie. Even though it says that the hostess will make all the pies in the reminder email, the Mother-in-Law still sees it as her responsibility to save the rest of the family from rotten, store-bought pie. She hangs around the hostess all day, subtly criticizing the cleanliness of her house and the quality of her food. She talks about her most recent trip to Cabo and her new perspective on life and how the hostess should really try to be more like her. It takes all of the hostess’ willpower not to pour the mash potatoes on her head.
The Overachieving Cousin
All the relatives have high hopes for this one. Her hair in a curly pony tail, relatives gawk over her straight A’s and career choice as a doctor. She participates in every school club and is planning to go to Harvard. All the cousins are compared to her. Her parents push her to be number one, and she does what they ask so they’ll be happy. She can do no wrong. She helps out in the kitchen just to show how adult she is.
She heads straight to the kitchen on arrival, pouring herself a glass of wine ¾ of the way full. It’s not that her life’s a mess, it’s just that she’s 40 and not yet married with children. The relatives sense this and begin the fusillade of questions. As she gets showered with questions, she takes a sip of wine. After a while the questions get bearable because at the pace she’s at with her 3 o’clock buzz, she won’t remember them anyway.
The Line of Grunting Uncles
All the uncles sit in a line on the couch watching the traditional Thanksgiving football game. They wear collared shirts and sweater vests, with pants that are easily adjustable after dinner. With their eyes were glued to the TV, they are not fazed by the loud clanks of pots and pans, and the comments that the Passive-Aggressive Mother-in-Law makes about the hostess’ “dry” turkey. They grunt and sip their beers in approval towards touchdowns, and spring up to their feet, shouting in outrage over bad ref calls. They take occasional smoke breaks (occasional meaning every ten minutes), then return to their spots on the couch. The only way they will leave the premise of the living room is when these three words are called: “Dinner is ready.” No one has ever seen anyone run that fast to the dining room in all of mankind.
Now, everyone has finally taken their spots at the table when the Passive-Aggressive Mother-in-Law comments on how she wishes the tablecloth would have been cleaned from last year. That is the straw that breaks the camel’s back because the hostess worked so very hard on this dinner. With asperity, the hostess tells the Mother-in-Law that she wishes that she could have one moment’s rest from her constant annoying criticisms. The Mother-in-Law becomes offended and tells her husband, who is of the line of uncles, to say something. As he does not know what to say, he makes a joke instead that causes the aunt to laugh out loud and spill her wine all over lap. The hostess then leaves to go get the turkey. In all the excitement, the cousin finds it the perfect time to declare that academics is no longer her passion and is moving to New York to become an artist. The family has not recovered from the uncle’s joke when Rockwell paints their faces. Then they turn with shocked expressions to the cousin, who, I guess, can do some wrong.