View Full Version : Any good stories about storytelling at Thanksgiving?

11-30-2008, 05:04 AM
In my last blog entry before Thanksgiving, I wrote an essay about how to use storytelling at Thanksgiving dinner in order to stir up some intimate connections. At the feast, I tried it myself. It was awkward at first (I'm the opposite of a party animal and not at all comfortable giving directions to a room full of family members), but enlisting the help of the hostess (my sister-in-law) we stirred up some stories that people had not heard before, and more people at the table were empowered to speak.

I'll write about my experience in more detail on my blog, but I thought while it was still fresh I'd ask if there were any other life writers who wanted to share experiences.

12-03-2008, 07:03 AM

No--my family likes to ignore elephants and gorillas sitting in living and dining rooms. It's about polite conversation and small talk. Which I'm very bad at doing. I like pointing out the elephant and saying, "Whooeee! Would you lookat that biiiig elephant in here??"

Which isn't to say that I haven't had some interesting Thanksgiving dinners, mostly thanks to my dear mom . . .

. . . who, when we were gathered at my brother's house one year for a rather formal dinner party-ish Thanksgiving dinner, suddenly blurted out that she thought she looked a lot like Lena Horne. Who is a lovely woman! But also twenty years older than my mom, and also African-American. Other than the fact that my mom's hair is very curly and short and she likes to tan her skin(??)--there's no resemblance.

My mother took our shocked silence for a room-wide hearing problem, and so repeated herself, only louder. "DON'T you guys THINK I LOOK like LENA HORNE?"

I handled the situation with all my usual tact (which would be none, of course), "Mom, if you think you resemble an eighty-year-old woman, more power to ya. Now, please pass the potatoes?"

Advance to the next Thanksgiving, when we were again seated at a finely-appointed, formal table at my brother's house with his wife's upper-class family (I hadn't mentioned that part before, had I?) and my mom stated that she thought my brother resembled Dennis Rodman. Yeah, that Dennis. The basketball star who has tattoos and piercings and dresses weirdly and finds himself in legal/job/relationship troubles. Also happens to be black. My brother doesn't even have a tan, and his hair is at best, wavy and never been colored green, purple, or blue. He's an attorney with his own law firm and tries his best to lead a respectable life. In other words, the resemblance to Dennis Rodman would be only if he were the exact opposite of Dennis Rodman and someone mistook the negative for the photo.

By then, no one batted an eyelash--we just pretended we didn't hear her. Even when she repeated it twice. She was drowned out by everyone asking for the potatoes at the same time.

As Thanksgiving was again approaching the following year, my brother told me that he was eager to find out which black person my mom thought I resembled. I related this whole story to one of my friends who happens to be black. When I repeated what my brother said, Nicole just looked me up and down and said drily, "Shelly, you are the whitest white person I have ever met. Won't happen!"

Eight thanksgiving dinners at my brother's, later? I'm still waiting.

12-03-2008, 07:06 PM
Mmmm. Our Thanksgiving has some elements of a good story, with enough creative re-writing. The cast of characters is suitably diverse in nearly every way, for some great elephant avoidance, especially when the seasoning of guests is thrown in.

Yes, it could work. But only as fiction. In truth, the elephants stayed under the overstuffed sofa, and it was about as colorful and intriguing as a bowl of room temperature Cream of Wheat.

12-03-2008, 11:24 PM

Thanks for your incredibly interesting Thanksgiving story. You've got my brain totally buzzing wondering what was going on in your mom's mind.

Look, she did tell a story. You just have to be Sherlock Holms to understand it. I'm assuming that your mom's own childhood was more modest which probably created lots of anxiety. She saw these folks as powerful, and had to prove herself.

Also if your mom is roughly 60, where was she during the 60's? Did she have any relationship with the civil rights movement? Back then, life was so easy, when we idealists could identify a clear cut right and wrong. Maybe she was having flashbacks to those earlier days, trying to imagine herself and her son as oppressed who had defied the odds (Lena Horne and Dennis Rodman, two fabulously successful black people). She was announcing to these rich people that she and her son were successful, even if other people thought they were the oppressed.

Even if she wasn't thinking anything of the sort, it would make a good story, don't you think? And of course you would have been informed a lot more by her story than by my interpretation of it.

I wish people could come out of hiding and tell their story. Well as we found it's not that easy at Thanksgiving, so we'll just have to write it in our memoir.

Thanks again for sharing!! Isn't life (and story telling) grand?


12-16-2008, 07:23 PM
LOL, Jerry--good estimate on my mom's age! She just turned 63 last week. I'm glad you enjoyed the impromptu story. ;)

My mom is a very interesting person. She's always been a bit fanciful and not always in the same headspace as other people when everyone is in the same room.

I think that you actually did nail, in part, why my mother started those conversations. She's quite uncomfortable and intimidated around my brother's in-laws, and the stress of their company seems to push her in strange directions. She also uses (and mispronounces!) big words in her conversations, as well.

I love my mom and have a great deal of compassion for her discomfort--she and I share that same feeling of awkwardness and backwardness in public, much to my own chagrin when I say or do something a bit odd. Which inevitably happens.

12-18-2008, 04:19 PM
Hi Schwebb,

I guess I jumped into the underlying "meaning" of your Thanksgiving story because that's what I've been doing for my blog. I'm glad you didn't think I was intruding. It's a good demonstration of the fact that the anecdotes that pop into mind, even ones that seem zany or pointless, often contain power that links them into the larger story of your life.

Stories are so powerful. I wish I had learned more about story telling when I was growing up, but the beautiful thing is, I can fulfill my wish by learning now.