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Chaos and drama aside, holidays are for families

By Staff | Oct 30, 2013

I can’t remember how old I was when I first started helping with holiday cooking. Old enough to handle a sharp knife, clearly, but not quite tall enough to comfortably reach the counters. I remember working at the kitchen table while my parents (and aunts and grandmother and whoever else was eating with us) bustled about the kitchen, mashing potatoes, basting turkey, and generally debating about who was doing what and how things were going to get done.

My job was making salad. I made salad for every major holiday for years. To this day it is one of my least favorite cooking tasks.

At some point or other, salads were handed over to my younger brother and I was bumped up to kitchen wench, which meant I was yet another pair of coordinated hands and a smart mouth trying to get dinner on the table. I learned how to mash potatoes, stuff turkeys, make gravy, and hold my own in the frequently sarcastic debate that has always surrounded cooking at our house.

I don’t know when I slipped up from ‘wench’ to ‘cook,’ but eventually there was a change over from, “Autumn, would you” to “Hey, mom, could you” and I was one of the ones giving orders.

I’ve been in charge of more than a few Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners by now and I’ve learned to appreciate good help. Or at least enthusiastic help. Or any help at all really.

But the number of people at our family dinners has dropped drastically over the years and there’s no longer the noise and controlled havoc there used to be. We no longer need to use the kitchen table because everyone can reach the counters. There aren’t four of us trying to do the same task and two more asking if it’s gotten done yet. The snide remarks have remained, but there are a lot fewer targets. We’ve gone from fourteen people to four or five.

That depresses me a bit really. A certain amount of chaos around meals makes it feel like the holidays to me. I’m grateful for the lack of drama, but I miss the commotion and the way, despite everything, things always turned out all right in the end-the food arrived on the table, everyone ate until they were full, and we all enjoyed each others’ company for a little while.

They say the holidays are all about family and togetherness. That sounds like a sappy way to put it, but I’ve found it’s true. The whole point of the food and the decorations and the TV specials is to get people to spend time with each other.

Because human beings weren’t really meant to live in bubbles.