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Talking turkey in Washington

To steal a theme from Ronald Reagan, "It is Thanksgiving again in America," and we are in for a miserable holiday.

You know the kind of holiday I'm talking about. Where manners and tradition require you to break bread with people who irritate the living daylights out of you, including the two or three who can be counted on to do something so unpleasant as to make the day dreadfully memorable.

The kind of holiday where divorces and remarriages and loans that never got paid back and thank-you notes that were never sent create a seething undercurrent that is as ready to bubble to the surface as the fat under the turkey's skin.

That's what we have in this country after last week's midterm elections. A government made up of two sides of the family tree that haven't forgotten how rude the other side was the last time they hosted Thanksgiving dinner. Suddenly, it is holidays as payback.

The Republicans have spent the last two years huddling at the bar in the den, complaining to each other, while the Democrats set the menu and ran the kitchen — and invited all sorts of new guests, a lot of whom look Hispanic.

Now the Republicans have taken America's holiday back, as it were, and are threatening to cut the food budget, though it looks like they are going to spend lavishly on dessert for their friends, who only drink tea and are always angry about something.

Aunt Nancy and Uncle John will be there, of course, and that's going to make things really tense and awkward, because their divorce was nasty — and he got the house.

And Uncle John will probably smoke and drink too much again and get all weepy when he talks about how he spent his childhood waiting tables at his father's tavern in Ohio, although you will notice that he never offers to clear the holiday dishes.

Uncle Ben is coming from Nebraska, but we have no idea on which side of the table he's going to sit this year. And Cousin Rand will be here from Kentucky to represent the goofy side of the family, because Christine can't get in from Delaware this year, and Sharron is stuck in Nevada.

Papa Barack, who made the bizarre suggestion that we celebrate Ramadan instead, will carve the turkey again, but some around the table are whispering that this may be the last time. Aunt Sarah wasn't invited, but we all know she wants to serve moose or salmon for Thanksgiving at her house in 2012.

Every time the family gets together, it's the same thing. Papa Barack talks about "hope" and moving forward together, and then Uncle John starts yelling that he wants to take everything back, and everybody else just wants to watch football and eat pie and take a nap.

I don't know what it is about holidays and families that makes things so unpleasant. The kids find an excuse to leave early and the women, who used to make this holiday happen, can't stand all the fighting and are just worried about how they are going to pay for everything.

It is a good thing Thanksgiving only comes once a year. Can you imagine what it would be like if it lasted, say, two years?

Susan Reimer's column appears Mondays. Her e-mail is susan.reimer@baltsun.com.

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