What to Do About Thanksgiving?

Some families have the same traditions year after year. There’s an established routine that just doesn’t change. Everyone gets together at a particular person’s home to celebrate together. It’s been that way forever; no need to change it, right?

Everyone brings their favorite dish to share. You may not like Aunt Bessie’s collard greens, or Aunt Cora’s onion cheese casserole, but they’ve always made it, and it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without them, whether you eat those dishes or not!

When I was growing up we always had certain dishes on the Thanksgiving table that made the meal complete. Especially my mom’s special cinnamon buns, my aunt’s oyster dressing, and my grandmother’s pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving wasn’t complete without them. And yes, if you click on the links, you can find the recipes! I don’t mind sharing!

But Thanksgiving isn’t all about the food traditions. It’s certainly a big part, but it’s also about family and friends getting together and enjoying a special time of fellowship.

But as the years go by, families are sometimes separated; by miles, by careers, or even worse, by family conflicts that have occurred and festered over the years…conflicts that just can’t be suddenly fixed by getting together around a dining table for one day and pretending everything’s okay. But that’s a story in itself, and one to be told another time.

Thanksgiving is hyped in the media, in the newspaper and radio and TV ads, as a magical time of family reunions with everyone sitting down together in their best clothes and being a part of a picture perfect display.

Is your Thanksgiving like that? Is anyone’s really like that?

Certainly no one I know.

Ever since my mother died ten years ago, Thanksgiving has never felt right. We lost the stability of a place to call our Thanksgiving home. We went a different place each year, joining friends’ celebrations, but it just didn’t feel right. We were there, but we weren’t family, and we couldn’t share in the reminiscing about other holiday memories, because we hadn’t been there with them. As nice as it was to have our friends include us, it just wasn’t “home”.

Even the last few Thanksgivings spent with our daughter’s husband’s family still didn’t feel right. Because it wasn’t OUR family. And as much as they wanted us to feel comfortable and fit in, we always felt like that piece of a jigsaw puzzle that looks like it should fit in a certain spot, but no matter how you try to force it. It just doesn’t quite work.

What to do this year?

We have choices.

Some of our friends are going to a restaurant with their extended family and their kids. We tried that one year. And we won’t do it again. It didn’t feel like Thanksgiving. The food was good, but not the home cooking we were used to. There were a lot of dishes to choose from, but you can’t take a bag of leftovers home from a restaurant. Plus it was a bit expensive, because after all, it was a holiday.

We talked about just going away somewhere. Renting a cottage on the beach or somewhere in the mountains. Or finding a bed and breakfast for a couple of nights. After all, we haven’t had any kind of vacation in several years. But then we probably wouldn’t have the kids with us, and I’d miss the Black Friday shopping that Ashley and I traditionally do every year.

But this year will be different anyway, because we are now blessed with our first grandchild, and even though Rachel Isn’t old enough to eat regular food, we want to start our own traditions this
year. Traditions that can be carried on year after year, with just a few new additions as she gets older, and is hopefully joined in a few years by a brother or sister.

So this year we will have Thanksgiving dinner at our daughter and son-in-law’s house. Chris will deep-fry the turkey, and Ashley and I will do the rest. She’ll make her grandmother’s special cinnamon buns, that she’s so good at doing. I’ll make oyster dressing for Chris, since he and I are the only ones who like it, and we have to continue a few of my family traditions! We’ll eat at their dining room table with Rachel in her high chair watching us. And I’ll wish my mother were still here to meet her great-granddaughter.

We will have created our own tradition that in years to come Rachel will remember and one day duplicate in her own way when she’s grown and married. It won’t be the same as we’ve done in the past, but I’ve come to realize that sometimes traditions must change with the times, and with growing families. And it will be perfect.

So what are you doing about Thanksgiving this year?

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