When we were young and in our parental prime, the big holiday dimmers were at our house. Our best friends and their children joined us; we shared the cooking. Even as the years passed and the children became adults and added spouses or significant others to the holiday, we kept to our formula. Among the many pluses of sharing the feast with friends was that it kept each family's hot spots off the table (so to speak).
The more things change, the more adjustments we have had to make. Our friends have passed away, their children are married and have Thanksgiving with their new families. Our children have put roots down in cities far from us and from each other. Our son's house has become the most convenient central meeting place for our family. When we gather we are ten--two grandparents, four parents and four Grands (plus one grand-bunny who gets an inordinate amount of attention). Without "outsiders" to keep the conversation from straying into the uber-personal, we are all at peril of making a blunder, of inadvertently stumbling into unproductive, hot-spot territory. And there's lot of time to do it. All of us are awake and together from morning 'til bedtime--gabbing in the living room, taking walks outside, helping in the kitchen, nibbling a light lunch before the Big Dinner, which we plan for 5:00 knowing that means we'll be sitting down by 6 or 6:30.
It's a lot of time together, a lot of interests and concerns to cover. Beer and wine are available to the adults. Tongues loosen--or as a drinking friend of mine likes to put it: the governor comes off.
All of which is a long way of saying we had a "governor off" moment. An awkward question was asked by an aunt of a teen-aged niece. It was a mortifying moment. The tide of conversation moved on and was forgotten by all except the teen, who escaped further notice by lavishing an inordinate amount of attention on the bunny.
Would that question have come up if we had friends in the party mix? Would the conversation have remained far enough from the personal not to veer into mortifying territory? Would everyone have been more cautious about what they said? Who knows. Is it possible to have a multi-general, multi-family get together and not have an awkward moment, an "I wish I hadn't said that" minute. After all, it's the high and low moments that color our recollections, as in, Remember the year when the bunny got loose in the garage or the Thanksgiving when Grannie crashed the touch football game.
All I do know is that on the airplane flying home this year, Paterfamilias, who has occasionally been too frank or critical at our holiday dinners, leaned in and said, "Well, that was a nice Thanksgiving, wasn't it? We didn't make any blunders."
Score this year as a plus for us.