Guest Post: Chicago comedian Monique Madrid

This month's guest post is Chicago comedian, Monique Madrid. She writes the blog marriageisajoke.com where you can see more hilarious videos like the one embedded in this post. Follow her on Twitter @moniquemadrid or check out moniquemadrid.com for more.

My Three Crazy Families

By Monique Madrid

Thanksgiving is a time for reflection, family and jokes about having a crazy family or, in my case, three crazy families.

It used to be just my sister, parents and me. As kids, we dressed up, presented a Thanksgiving song or letter (total nerds) and enjoyed a big meal with family friends. After playing, “guess what’s in the stuffing” (not a euphemism), eating pie and watching a wholesome movie, we were sent to bed, so the parents could stay up to drink their “grownup juice.” It was the way Thanksgiving had been for years and I loved it.

Fast-forward 25 years and my parents were getting divorced. Fortunately we need not be upset, because “we’d still spend the holidays together as a family.” Whatever the hell “family” now meant.

Turns out, it meant The Worst Thanksgiving EVER. That day, Dad did his best to act happy despite our childhood home being an empty shell of what it used to be. Mom had taken all the decorations, including the overabundance of throw pillows, to her new place. Dad immersed himself in household projects, like unnecessarily remodeling the kitchen, which gave Mom a great excuse to air her “opinions” on his handiwork. My sister and I, on the other hand, just tried not to mention the divorced elephants in the room, even when they were sitting at the dinner table together.

Me: “Where’s my coat?”

Brie: “In Mom’s room… I mean Mom and Dad’s room… I mean Dad’s room!”

…Long silence as we all stare at each other…

Me: “Awkward.”

As you can guess, we didn’t come back for Christmas.

I was also married that year and, in addition to wedding gifts, I’d also gained two more parents. Now, holidays would be split between three families over three days. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a thankful person, but not three times as thankful.

Thanksgiving with his family and mine couldn’t be more different. One side bickers about their issues. The other pretends they don’t exist. One drinks soda, the other, shitty wine. One has child tantrums, the other, grownup tantr… you get the point.

At my in-laws, Thanksgiving is always the same. There are just too many people involved to make changes. Plus, they like tradition. The morning starts with flag football “Turkey Bowl”, (it used to be tackle, until the moms determined there were too many injuries). Next, Uncle Lloyd carves the bird and you try to avoid getting your fingers cut off while snatching a bite.

   

You can add, but there’s no subtracting of a dish. Too bad if you’re sick of making cranberry salad, that’s what you bring. Every year. Forever. I introduced mashed potatoes to the tradition, even though I was told, “Jews don’t eat mashed potatoes.” (Note to my mother-in-law: Don’t worry, I know you were joking).

We say what we’re thankful for, play “there are never the right amount of chairs, because mom can’t count,” and “guess how long till the grandkids meltdown,” eat and then wrangle the family onto the porch (cue the meltdowns) for a family picture that never turns out well.  

Later, we laugh about Grandpa Sam taking a prop plane on a joy ride, how he played saxophone in illegal speakeasies to put himself through pharmacy school and the time they found out he had a secret 4th wife. Best of all, despite any animosities that often come with families, they are never mentioned, because it’s Thanksgiving.

Now in my family(s), if there’s animosity, you talk, fight AND cry about it. But, things have evolved over the last seven years. The food continues to get more creative; as do the ways my parents outdo each other in weirdness. Be it the interactions with the new person they’re dating or the sales pitch they give hoping to convince us to join their latest “it’s not a pyramid scheme” business. We may not tell funny stories from the past but we do tell random stories over the movie we’re supposedly watching and get lots of quality napping done. Though it’s no Norman Rockwell painting, there’s something comforting about it because we’re doing our best to figure it out together.

I used to think my “side” was crazy and his was normal, but I’ve come to realize that’s not true. Normal is whatever your own version of crazy is and is something I’ve come to appreciate. Besides, what family doesn’t serve mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving? Uhhh… a crazy one?