Thanksgiving as an Estranged Daughter

Family photo provided by author, taken sometime in the 1990s.

t’s Thanksgiving. I slept in with my sister in her Washington DC basement apartment until 10:00am and now it’s 11:45 and we still need to walk to the store for some ingredients.

There’s no deadline. No rush. No schedule.

This is not like it was at mom’s house.

By now, we’d be running around and doing the time-honored dance of side dishes coming into and out of the oven on an impeccable schedule. Someone would be organizing crackers into attractive rows with a variety of cheese balls in the middle of a platter. The house would be so warm that we could write something crude in the fog on the kitchen windows to surprise mom and make her laugh later. If she was in a good mood.

Thanksgiving is an event for just the two of us now. We started the “Sibsgiving” tradition last year, the first year we had both cut off contact with our parents. I brought a partner and we had a three person meal and leftovers for days.

This year, it’s just us — and it’s the first time we’ve had one on one time together in years. We’re taking our time, enjoying the day off work, listening to music, and wondering how our grief folds into our celebration.

The holidays as an estranged adult child are weird, because I love the idea of not having to call everyone I’m related to in order to wish them a happy holiday, but I also worry that they’re sitting around hating me for my absence.

I’m still losing peace over it, even though my parents haven’t been in my life for months, even years. My last contact with my dad was December 2018 after months of not speaking, and my last contact with my mom was in March 2018 after over a year with zero contact.

I have been parentless by choice for all of 2019, and as the year comes to a close I realize I am much healthier and happier without running their scripts in my head about how I’m supposed to act.

The level of performance required to keep everyone happy in our family was heavy. If I forgot to call someone, I’d be on the receiving end of their passive aggressive silent treatment for months.

I am so tired of keeping track of everyone else’s expectations of me.

The space between wanting to be a dutiful, good daughter and wanting to protect my own peace and boundaries is smaller at the holidays.

But the more holidays we take back and make our own, the more I will remember that this space is for my health and happiness.

Love is no longer transactional.

My family is chosen.

And I am thankful.

Prone to sudden bursts of encouragement. They/them. Queer, autistic author of

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