Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up soon, and if you're like me, you have family dinners to attend as these holidays approach. I was thinking about how quiet my family dinners have become over the years. My small group usually consists of just me, my husband, and son. Once in a while, we add my mom or sister and brother-in-law.
But in the past, if Mom or one of the aunts hosted dinner, there would be a huge group of people eating at the table, or tables, as the case may be. The funny thing is, I always saw people I didn't know from Adam. Often they were friends of grandchildren or great-grandchildren, or maybe a second cousin or two. The worst thing about having mystery guests at the holiday dinner is that you don't know what to say to them.
It seems rude to ask "Um...do I know you?". And maybe they wouldn't necessarily appreciate the third degree: "Where do you work? Are you from this area? Who do you know at this table?"
Once I can make a connection to someone that we BOTH know, I can usually chat for a minute or two about the person we have in common. But after that, again, there's a stand-off of silence. Somehow, I always think I'm obligated to make the mystery person be welcomed, since it IS my family, but I honestly can feel myself start to wilt under the pressure of making conversation with someone of whom I have no previous history. Beyond asking, "Would you like gravy?", I struggle with what to say.
And, what's up with me not being able to remember ANYONE'S name now-a-days? Is it menopause? Even if I only have to remember the mystery person's name, I find myself thinking, "Now, what was her name? Jill? Jamie? Jessica? Oh, rats!". Then I spend a lot of time thoughtfully chewing my roll and looking like I'm thinking deep thoughts to keep from having to address the mystery guest by name. It is just TOO embarrassing to have to ask for her name only seconds after she's already told me!
I think it's fun and exciting to have large family gatherings for the holidays (as long as I don't have to do all the cooking), but there's something nice too, about the small, cozy dinners we've been experiencing over the last few years. I know that, when I sit down to share the meal, I will know every single person at the table.
Then again, how much can I REALLY know my teen son? Now there's a mystery guest even an expert conversationalist can't crack!