This short story (10 pages) was published in November of 1995 by Chris Radant. The book takes you to a family Thanksgiving. Melissa read Home for the Holidays and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
This laugh-out-loud story — about the annoyance, patience, laughter, and abiding love of family — will also, probably, bring an unexpected sting to your eyes as you read. Its sharp observations and resigned tone wholly capture the warm feelings and bite-your-tongue moments of a family Thanksgiving.
Our unnamed narrator has a life she loves. But for the 96 hours of her family visit, she will subvert everything she is — everything she’s worked to become — to spend the holiday at her childhood home: ‘In five weeks, it will be 1990, except at Mom and Dad’s house, where 1956 will never end.’
It’s clear she loves her family, although it’s with a rich combination of wry tolerance and abject impatience. The impending celebration has her feeling anxiety-stricken and latent rebelliousness: She’s 40 years old with a child of her own, but her parents’ advice drives her to respond with ‘the fevered, Gimme a *#!@!! break! of a 15-year-old.’
On the plane ride from Boston to Pittsburgh, she reminisces about holidays past, and her resolve begins to wither. Before she’s really ready for it, she’s in the family car, wearing a coat that is not hers, and zoning out from perennial conversational topics (relatives’ foibles, disgusting medical conditions), while wondering if they think she’s a dimwit because she cannot fathom a way to respond to the things they say.
When the big day arrives, so does the rest of the family, and an eating bacchanalia ensures. ‘Grazing began extra early on Thanksgiving morning. My brothers arrived with assorted girlfriends, wives, and children. And there were fried eggs, pancakes, crew-sonts, fudge cookies, and sticks of butter disguised as every manner of food.’
The miniature dramas in this story play out the way only family farce can, including an ordinary winter coat that takes on epic proportions, a Wurlitzer organ that might be possessed, squeeze cheese in a can, the safe haven of a televised basketball game, cloying odors, plenty of Alka-Seltzer, and the unintended consequences of the gift of a globe.
When it’s finally time to depart for her real life, our narrator feels like the holiday has lasted a lifetime and was also over just a little too soon.
They’ll do things they’ve always done to drive me nuts and I won’t go nuts. I’ll translate every single thing into a gesture of love and concern. These are two things of which I’m certain. This time, I will exhibit a mastery over the situation. My hard-earned maturity will bridge the abyss. Yep, It’s going to be great. — Chris Radant
This story was the basis for the 1995 film Home for the Holidays starring Holly Hunter, Anne Bancroft, Dylan McDermott, Claire Danes, and Robert Downey, Jr. and directed by Jody Foster. This is one of our favorite holiday movies; it brilliantly extends this short story into film.
Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.
Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.
This is a weekly email. If you'd like a quick alert whenever we update our blog, subscribe here.
We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.
This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.
Content on this site is © 2022 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.