This time, I am seeing two friends and visiting a third, who really doesn't want to experience his mother in undiluted form. (His mom is alone because she can't stand a lot of things, like people who are okay with some other ethnic groups, plus she is cnstantly alienating people.) I'm there to keep it from getting too grim. I was realizing I've done this role for YEARS, for various people.
When did Thanksgiving turn into a family stress holiday? Probably about the time the Victorians co-opted the Pilgrims. I notice they mentioned that on a History Channel show, last night. It wasn't really about the Pilgrims, it started as a family gathering to celebrate the harvest. But then America got urbanized, and people ended up in cities with social ills around them, and wanted a symbol of a purer life. Well, the Puritans fit the bill, and they made life pure hell for everyone around them, especially family, so maybe that's where the whole dysfunctional dynamic came into it. Me, the best Thanksgiving I ever spent was camped with the Mountain Men, with everyone sharing potluck, and some Indians making fry bread, and everyone appreciating knowing each other. Now THAT was Thanksgiving! More like the real concept.
I like to watch the film "What's Cooking?" with the dynamic of four families (of varying degrees of dysfunction) celebrating the holiday. It kind of sums things up.
Someday, I will have it as a holiday done my way---and excuse to do a LOT of cooking for a collection of friends. But carefully-chosen, compatible friends.