Last night, I sat down with Liv as I do every night before Thanksgiving.
I wish it was to talk about how thankful we are. It was not. It was to talk to her about Thanksgiving at my sister's house. As usual, I reminded her that Uncle Bob was going to act like a jerk. That there might be words and opinions that are, well...okay...repulsive to us as a family. I went on to tell her that we can't change others, etc.
And then she put me in my place, albeit sweetly.
"I don't get it. You've taught me several things. I should speak my mind. I should not put up with what I know in my heart is wrong. I should keep my manners on when I am a guest in someone's home. But, all of these things get tangled up every year. We go to Uncle Bob and Aunt Patrice's house for Thanksgiving. Uncle Bob uses the word "nigger" and says words like RASTAS and JAMAR and DIEGO and PANCHO and every single year, he asks the teenage girl cousins if they want to go for a ride to the north or south areas of the city where all the JAMARS and PANCHOS are just aching to kiss a white girl. And they smile politely and say nothing but when we are alone they talk about what an ass he is. And now, his son and my cousin, Corbin is starting to do the same thing. And then the whole family starts attacking Obama. And then you sit next to me coiled like a snake and Bing keeps holding your hand on the other side and squeezing it. And then you can't stand it anymore and you start yelling back at Uncle Bob and saying that he is ignorant. And you start taking about this bill or that bill and how Obama is trying, but the house is stacked against him and you say every single year that children are at the table and enough is enough. And Uncle Bob is smiling big and acting like he is laughing at you while that yappy dog of his SITS INSIDE HIS SWEATER through the whole meal and he keeps feeding it food FROM HIS PLATE! And then one of the aunts gets up and asks if anyone wants pie and you all settle down. After dinner, I go play with the rest of the cousins and you and Aunt Jessie go off to talk and Bing watches football or reads the paper and keeps looking at her watch. And on the way home, you just stare out the window and look like you want to cry and when we get home, you either are very, very quiet or else you and Bing talk about how this is all insanity and WHY DO WE SUBJECT OURSELVES TO THIS EVERY YEAR? And you say because it is the only chance that you get to see Aunt Jessie and all of her daughters. My girl cousins say that every single time on the drive home, Aunt Jessie tells them that Uncle Bob is an idiot and unchristian and they should ignore him. But, you know what, Mama? NO ONE EVER REALLY DOES MUCH and it is the same every year."
She silenced me speechless.
And then I told her to give me a moment to think.
I went to Bing and we had a long talk about how we aren't really being proper role models for Liv or teaching her the right thing. I do stand up for what I believe, but it is their house and the truth is that I am a poor house guest. Yet, I can't just keep quiet.
"What if we just left every time that Bob went into his disgusting talk?" Bing said, softly.
I thought about this.
"I would miss talking to Jessie," I said.
Bing sighed. "Maria, the problem is that every year, you expect it to be different and it can't be. Maybe we should just politely thank Patrice for a good meal and get up and leave. It is a much better example for Liv than you sitting there yelling at Bob. And hey, you and Jessie can talk on the phone any time you wish. And maybe...just maybe...if we leave often enough, Patrice will get Bob to at least shut the fuck up when we are around."
I took a deep breath. Agreed with her.
So, we sat Liv down and I thanked her for her honesty. And then we told her what we planned on doing. She was disappointed. Some of her cousins she only gets to see once a year, at Thanksgiving. But, she agreed with us, in the end.
So...wish us luck.
And hey, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. Cross your fingers for me, yes?