Monday, October 19, 2009

Mystery Guests at the Holiday Table

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 " 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!


Andrea said...

Only thing more challenging than a teenage son as the mystery guess is a teenage daughter! Whew....glad we have our girls grown!

Blessings, andrea

Catrina Bradley said...

I loved meeting you and your family at the conference. I prefer small and quiet holidays myself. Thanksgiving dinner at the Yoder's would be a hoot! Can I bring my dog?

Arlee Bird said...

Once my daughters all left home our Thanksgiving feasts pretty well dwindled. We used to have my wife's family over for the whole day -- maybe 20 to 30 people. Even though I did most of the cooking she would get all stressed and tired cleaning for days. House always looked pretty good to me, don't why she was stressing out so on it. Everyone always loved my dinners and we had a good time even though I could only understand half of them (my wife's family is from Ecuador). The girls moved out one by one and then there were none. Last year my wife said not to cook a dinner. But I felt the need to, albeit a much smaller dinner than normal- just a small turkey, some oyster dressing, and sweet potatoes. My only daugher who still lives nearby came with her hopefully-soon-to-be husband and their newly born daughter -- our first grandchild. They stayed for our midday dinner, but then moved on quickly to his family's house for dinner their too. It was a quiet afternoon. Whether we have 30 guests or just my wife and I is fine with me. I'm flexible. Life is good.
Last week I decided to try this NaNo thing. I just started my blog a month ago. Now NaNo. This will be my first real immersion in the writing experience. Should be interesting.

Laury said...

You are right, teenagers surely are mystery guests but they are also lots of fun - most days. :)

Lynnette Labelle said...

LOL Too funny!

I answered your question on my blog with today's post. Check it out.

Lynnette Labelle

Dee Yoder said...

Andrea, my teen son is a good guy, but I do sometimes wonder what is going on in his head! He is the "strong silent type"--you never quite know what he's thinking. (:

Cat, come on over! We can save a bit of turkey for your doggie, too!

Arlee, thanks for visiting my blog! Yes, it's good to have Thanksgiving with family and friends--no matter how many end up at the table!

Teens ARE fun, Laury, and they remind us of our own youthful days-LOL!

Lynnette, thanks for posting that info! It is very interesting!