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How to prepare for the family Thanksgiving gathering

This month families will gather all over America to enjoy quality time and share a marathon Thanksgiving dinner. Can this be overwhelming with potentially awkward moments? How do you keep the conversation flowing as smooth as the gravy?

Here are some talking points for lump-free dialogue:

1.If you have a four-year-old boy at the table, avoid any words reminding him of body parts, since this could encourage an unwelcome exhibition. Ask for white meat (not breast), refer to the ham butt as a shoulder, and DO NOT let him get a glimpse of the turkey neck.

2.Don’t ask Aunt Martha how her recovery is going when she arrives more sauced than the cranberries.

3.If you are facing unemployment or are jobless, boycott work-related topics. You are happy for the success of those who’ve had promotions, but it ruins the festive atmosphere when you sob in the midst of the main course. Don’t be surprised when no one pays attention since they are focused on sobering up Aunt Martha.

4.Study the weather report so you can comment on the extended forecast in great detail. This is a filler to evade personal Q&A sessions when someone finally notices your puffy eyes and tear-stained face.

5.Quell the urge to respond to cousin Joe’s comprehensive, violent suggestions for solving the world’s problems. Instead, stuff a super-sized dinner roll in your mouth and concentrate on not choking to death. This is still a lower risk than enraging Joe, who packs a pistol.

6.Will you have trouble with number 5? Have someone nearby locked and loaded with a super-sized dinner role and license to cram it in your mouth at early signs of an inflammatory rebuttal.

7.Don’t say the word rebuttal. See number 1.

8.Designate the ‘grace sayer’ ahead of time so Uncle Buddy, the lay preacher, doesn’t volunteer. The potatoes will be ice-cold and the gravy congealed as he concludes his forty-minute sermon. Better to nominate Aunt Ruth with her efficient invocation: “Bless this dinner, and all us sinners. Amen!”

9.When your siblings share tales of your legendary teenage escapades in front of your own teens, pretend to choke on a turkey bone. Once you have ‘recovered’ from this near-death experience, your skeletons will be securely stored in the closet where they belong.

10.Do talk about all the beloved people who are permanently absent from the gathering; parents, grandparents, a sister, a nephew, cousins, aunts, and uncles. The younger ones can only know them through your memories.

11.Thank God for all the imperfect people present in your life and family. Give them a hug, mumble ‘I love you,’ and launch into speculation about which team will win the Lions/Eagles game. After all, you don’t want to get too mushy, even on Thanksgiving Day.

—Molly Stevens

Molly Stevens is the award-winning author of the newly published Boomer on the Ledge, described as “an adult picture book that explores the antics of an aging boomer.” Molly believes humor is the emollient that soothes life’s rough patches and promotes these convictions in her blog: Shallow Reflections. She is the November 2017 Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop Humor Writer of the Month, and won third place in the 2017 National Society of Newspaper Columnists writing contest. She is a contributing author for These Summer Months: Stories from the Late Orphan Project, edited by Anne Born.

Reflections of Erma