Did I mention this was in Mesa? Yeah. Yee-fuckin'-hah. The once-removed cousin and her husband are pushing eighty and are perfectly pleasant until her husband opens the Thanksgiving table conversation with anecdotes from his job as a Wal-Mart greeter. Guns and ammo are flying off the shelves of the Mesa Wal-Mart because people are so worried about Barack Obama's million-man civilian security force which sounds just like the SS to him and after all that's how Hitler got his start and at this point the cousin shushes him. He shrugs. He's just worried, is all. In his gated (!)
Does that make me a snob? Do I give a rat's ass either way? Not really. The ongoing conundrum my grandmother and her relatives poses for me is how the sentence should be constructed, which side of the comma the relevant information lands on, how to decide what goes into the dependent clause. Do I say well, they're right-wing Evangelicals who repeat Limbaughisms like gospel, but they do care enough about my son to remember cute details of the last time they saw him nine years ago? Or do I say instead well, they might warmly welcome me into their home, but they also voted for the anti-gay-marriage amendment and their next-door neighbors have statues of little black kids with fishing poles in their yard? What cancels out what? Ah, they're uncritically, casually racist, nativist, and homophobic, but they're family. Ah, they're always nice to my face, but they don't hesitate to exhibit beliefs I find repulsive. A but B. B but A.
Homer says I'm far more civil than he is, since I didn't call cousin Harold a fucking cunt when he dropped his Obama-as-Fuhrer bullshit into my mashed potatoes. The mantra in my head is they're old, they're not going to live forever, so I usually choose to avoid confrontation one more time even as I glance at the clock. Don't offend your host (even when he doesn't hesitate to offend you), don't upset your grandmother whose niece and nephew the once-removed cousins are (even though Grandmother doesn't hesitate to upset you by asking for the five millionth time if you can tell a black person lives in the purple-trimmed pink trailer down the street from her own). Homer's through with being respectful to people who would just as soon shit on him and me as look at us. I tell myself I'm trying to find the balance when it's people who were good to me when I was a child and who I still need to see on a regular basis, but it's probably as much chickenshittery as anything else.
I did find a pamphlet from the cousins' church while digging through a basket in search of the DirectTV channel guide, a flyer that promised OUTRAGEOUS QUOTES FROM MORMONS on the cover. Hazarding a glance, I found what looks like a regular feature in the vein of "kids say the darndest things" except that it highlights things the Mormon leadership has said about stuff like parallels between Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ, which apparently don't go over too well with the Central Christian Church of the East Valley crowd. Of course this regular mockery and head-shaking didn't keep them from hopping on the LDS Whip Teh Gayz bandwagon. Talk about a sham marriage of convenience.
Anyway. The food was good, if salty salty salty--one plateful was plenty--but there was no wine or whiskey or Demerol or anything else that might have made the conversation more bearable. We left sorta hurriedly in order to beat a thunderstorm that erupted shortly after dinner was over, hustling out the door as the cousin flipped through her guestbook to confirm it really had been that long since she'd seen my son--who owes me hugely now for letting him blow this one off--and cousin Harold squeezed my hand, saying how good it was to visit again, so I left with a nice little dose of guilt for having such uncharitable feelings about such nice people... until I remembered exactly what had spurred the uncharitable feelings, which just left me unsuccessfully trying to suss out "nice" and "shitty" and the line between them and how much blurring family ties are allowed to cause, all while dodging really cold raindrops and trying to load the grandparents and the leftovers into the car, and explaining that yes, I really did need to take off for the two-hour drive back to Tucson that night. Which I did, arriving home exactly eight hours after I'd left to drive up for dinner, tired and conflicted.
This is usually my favorite holiday. This year, not so much.