The headline directed me to a story about how to prepare for a stress-free Thanksgiving, and I foolishly thought it would tell me how to avoid the pitfalls at the table with all the brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts. All I learned was how to make the sweet potato casserole ahead of time. All that and the cranberry relish.
That sounds about right. There's no such thing as a "stress free" Thanksgiving. Each generation projects its own attitude, from the demanding toddler through the tweens, teens, sophomores, young adults, parents and grandparents. They enrich and divide the generations as the conversations expose a variety of political, psychological and sociological conventions of the times. It can't hurt to anticipate some of the more contentious issues. The fact that the family gets together at all tells us something good about contemporary culture.
Many of the arguments between generations actually begin before the family is called to the feast -- as in, what to wear. Thanksgiving was dreamed up by the Puritans, but there's nothing Puritanical about the way the kids dress today. Is it OK to expose tattoos and piercings? That depends, but there's very little skin left that's still regarded as unexposable. (Keep an eye on the sly old uncle, and seat him well away from the exposed belly buttons.) Can the young mother breast-feed at the table? Is there a children's table? (Remember how pleased you were when you finally graduated to the big table?) Is there tofu turkey for the vegans?