Every Thanksgiving, we gather our families from the four corners of the world, all in one place, to celebrate what we’re truly thankful for. Or, if you’re part of my family, to eat enough food and get enough liquor in you to take a run at Black Friday without getting trampled by a soccer mom looking for a $200 PS4. The traditions and composition of each family are very different, but I think I speak for everyone when I say we all have the following relatives, and they make Thanksgiving interesting, if nothing else.
1. The Born Again Christian
We get it, you have changed from your pot-smoking, skater days and found God in a way that makes God feel like he’s in a relationship with a stage-5 clinger. This family member is the most likely to show up to the event on time, but not really to help in the set up or execution of Turkey Day. No, they’re there to tell you the good news, quite a few times. After they’ve thoroughly attempted to change your mind (even if you’re already a part of their religion), they’ll launch into a rant at the dinner table about how they just don’t understand people that believe in evolution or think the world is older than 6,000 years old. This family member will make anyone with an advanced degree in the sciences uncomfortable, but at least they’re mostly harmless. Just don’t give them the pulpit for too long, and conveniently skip them if the dinner prayer has a “what we’re thankful for” section.
2. The Political Pundit
This family member is determined to turn every family gathering into a play at home game of Crossfire. Harmony and bliss on your Thanksgiving? Screw that, they want to talk about the most recent scandal that rocked the political world and why it made them angry, because they have an opinion and it must be heard, damn it! If the political pundit is also one of your grandparents, be ready for the potential of some pretty interesting commentary, some of which may fall outside the bounds of what is generally considered “polite” or “socially acceptable” or maybe even “not racist.” They’ll liven up your dinner conversation, but only because people are yelling back and forth about the merits and flaws of the ACA over cries of your non-political family members to just pass the friggin’ gravy.
3. The Young Children
Unless your family has sworn off having kids entirely (unlikely), there will be 3-10 kids less than half your age running around the house as if they were told to treat it like Chuck E. Cheese before walking in the door. Assuming you aren’t old enough for them to be considered someone else’s problem, you may spend a good portion of your Thanksgiving playing an involuntary combination of hide-and-seek and tag as you chase kids that should not be nearly that fast around the house. The positive here is you kind of get to be a kid again, but you will feel like you ran a marathon the next morning, and the 5,000 calories you ate the night before won’t help that any. Just don’t wear your best clothes if you’ve been put on babysitting duty, as there is a 98% chance one of them will get something that stains permanently on you.
4. The Chef
This family member’s cooking experience may not amount to much more than cooking ramen on a hot plate back in their college dorm 20 years ago, but on Thanksgiving, they are Bobby Flay. I don’t mean they have the skills of the Iron Chef though; I mean they watched the Food Network for six days before Thanksgiving and now they think they can create a dinner worthy of a five-star restaurant. They will constantly battle the actual people cooking dinner in the kitchen like the family actually is doing a festive Iron Chef challenge, but without producing any amazing food themselves in the process. A shrewd head Thanksgiving cook will send them off to get cranberry sauce or peel potatoes somewhere out of the way, effectively defusing the threat of dry turkey and runny gravy at the dinner table.
5. The Fearless Leader
Every family needs someone who knows how to get shit done. In my family, that would be my dad. His job is to provide the authoritative force behind the logistical and organizational prowess of my mom’s Thanksgiving planning. Organizing a family at Thanksgiving is like herding a bunch of cats that are high on catnip. If you think trying to get 30-40 blood relatives that are forced to love/tolerate one another together in peace and harmony is easy, you may want to consider a career as a drill sergeant. The fearless leader is not afraid to walk into a mob of family members having a spirited debate and tell everyone to calm their tits, though probably not in those words if there are children in earshot. If people argue too much, he or she will remind them of the spirit of the holiday, or just tell them that they’re too damn loud and people are trying to watch the football game. Speaking of the game…
6. The Superfan
This family member is not at your Thanksgiving Day event because they love everyone in the family; this family member is there because you have a killer big screen, surround sound, booze and NFL Network. After a couple of hours on the couch, this family member will be loudly cheering on a team, though it may not be their team. They will be so drunk by the half that someone else in the family may need to carry them to the table, where they will unceremoniously slump until a big play comes on in the game. Inevitably, they’ll crash on your couch and wake up the next morning to ask you the score of the game before grabbing a few for the road and heading home.
7. The Drunk One
This is generally a rotating position in the average family. Every year, a new family member takes up the proud/shameful mantle and charges forth into battle with a six pack of beer and the spiced apple cider with entirely too much rum in it. The end of the night is always a mystery for this family member. Maybe they will sit quietly on the couch and fall asleep at 8pm. Maybe they’ll start a family game of flip cup ending with Grandma yelling at Grandpa for being a terrible anchor. It’s really a wildcard slot. In any case, just name them captain of the bad decisions committee and see where the night takes everyone. A Thanksgiving with no drama is not a Thanksgiving at all.