Thanksgiving with my Family: Realizations over Vodka and Pita Chips

My family celebrated Turkey-day with 30 of our closest relatives, 4 dogs running all over, and two massive bottles of vodka. It had its ups and downs. I had two fairly major realizations in the pinnacles of those ups and downs. I’ll start with the down first, because everyone likes to end on a high note (which do you want first, the good news or the bad? Everyone chooses bad, don’t they?).

My little brother got extremely drunk on Thanksgiving night. My older cousins had been drinking all day, and my little brother foolishly joined in and went way too far. I came home from dropping my cousins off at a bar and I found my brother in my room (he was staying in my room while our relatives were over) sitting facing a corner rocking back and forth, completely covered with sweat and incoherent. He had thrown up all over the brand new carpet. I was so pissed, but I was more worried. I just embrace pissed more easily than I do worried. My mom cleaned him and his mess up and got him to go to sleep, after much more vomiting. I barely slept that night, partly because I was still fuming and partly because I got up every hour to make sure he was still breathing (I’m paranoid like that).  I’m pretty pissed about the whole thing (pissed at my cousins not telling him to slow down, my parents not noticing how much he was drinking, him for being a complete and utter idiot – it’s not the first time I’m seen him dangerously drunk). But I’m most angry because I’m pretty sure he learned nothing from this, I’m pretty sure he’ll do it again. And that thought gnaws at me like nothing else. I’m afraid he’s going to end up killing himself.

But there is something else that’s bothering me about this incident: I could easily put myself in the same position. My brother and I aren’t all that different. When we were little and my dad would get really drunk, my brother and I would hide in our room and we swore we would never drink. Or course, we were just kids then, but I still don’t drink. I’ve given up on the “never”, but I hope that when I do drink I won’t take it that far. I’m afraid that if I start drinking I might not be able to stop. I know this seems slightly illogical, but it’s not from my point of view. I’m very shy, and I feel very awkward in social situations. If I start drinking and it makes me feel good, I’ll want to keep feeling good.

I guess this would be the time to tell you about the one time I did choose to drink. It was only a few months ago, at my cousin’s wedding (my cousins are a bad influence, in case you didn’t notice. But in all fairness, most everyone in my family is a bad influence). My cousins were all drinking shots and margaritas (which they offered me, and I declined), so they left their champagne on the table. The table was empty and I was sick of being the only one not drinking, so I drank every glass of untouched champagne at the table. And then the ones at the next table. They were cleaning up by now, so they were taking all the glasses off the tables. I know it sounds like I drank a lot, but I really didn’t. They were small glasses; I drank each one in one gulp. I did not get drunk. My chest was warm and my head felt light, I was talking kind of loud. I must have had a bit of a buzz because I was having a full conversation with someone who I had never spoken to before (although, she was my cousin) and I willingly danced with my mother. But I could tell the effects had worn off a few hours later and I felt no type of hangover.

So, this incident was not in and of itself frightening. What scares me is that I don’t know how much I would have drunken if I had the opportunity. If they hadn’t been getting rid of the drinks would I have drunken all of the champagne? I drank them quite thoughtlessly, all in a matter of a few minutes. What if I had been drinking shots? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I may find out soon. I will be studying abroad in England next semester and I really do want to go to the pubs with my new friends and have fun (if that’s what they want to do). But I want to know that I won’t go crazy and drink myself into a stupor. My older brother jokes that I will come back a full-fledged alcoholic. I laugh, but I’m secretly terrified that he might be right

Well, enough with being a downer. I actually had a really good Thanksgiving, if I just forget about my brother. It was really neat having a few people from my dad’s side of the family over, we usually just celebrate with my mom’s side because they live closer. I don’t see my dad’s side of the family very often at all. We went to my cousin’s wedding last summer, it kind of turned into a family reunion of sorts, and that was the first time in nine years that I’d seen many of my cousins, a few aunts and uncles, and my grandma on my dad’s side of the family. It was a really strange experience, because we all lived together in a house for a few days. And since then I’ve been seeing a lot more of those relatives. One of my uncles and his daughter visited us for a few days after the wedding. Another uncle came a month later. And now we had my aunt, uncle, and their son and daughter over for four days of Thanksgiving break. Yes, they were a bit wild. But it really was nice. It’s nice to see where my dad came from. It’s nice to see his most love-able quirks reflected in someone else, and it’s nice to know that he didn’t collect all of his annoying habits of his own accord. And I feel like I’m seeing a different side of myself also. I know my mom’s family. I know how I fit in with them, I know how we are similar and how we are different, I know what I got from my mom, and I thought I knew what parts of me were just me. But now I can see that some of those parts come from my dad’s family. And I can see parts of myself that I never saw before because I wasn’t looking through the right lenses, so to speak.

At one point I sat around the kitchen table with my brothers and cousins and we all just mindlessly ate the pita chips my mom set in the middle of the table and we joked back and forth and laughed. It was simple and easy and it felt right. That’s what family is.

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