November 21, 2016

Thanksgiving Time

I have a confession to make: I don't particularly like Thanksgiving.

I know it seems silly and that there's no obvious reason to dislike a holiday based on eating lots of food. I've seen the holiday through many different angles. I've certainly had great Thanksgivings in the past, and I hope to have many more in the future.

My son's first Thanksgiving
As a kid, I went to the huge family dinners at my grandparents' house. We had turkey, ham, and seven aunts brought their famous dressing (or stuffing if you're not from the south). Someone would lead the group in prayer which always seemed to drag on forever as a kid, and we'd all go around the table and say what we were thankful for.

Only one year did I forgo the tradition of listing all the things we were thankful for. It had been a really rough year. My husband lost his job and spent most of the year unemployed while I was pregnant and overwhelmed with our special needs toddler. We were living completely on credit and WIC. Two weeks after my daughter was born, we lost my husband's sister. The next month, we had just moved and had our Thanksgiving dinner in a new apartment in a new state amongst unpacked boxes.

I'm not a competent cook. I have a few dishes I've worked at that I can make pretty well. One of them is apple pie. I've already got a pile of apples in a nice bowl ready for their metamorphosis into a delicious dessert. One thing I have not tried to make is a whole turkey. My mom would get a ham for our small family meal once we no longer lived close to our extended family. Only one year did she roast an entire turkey. My dad graciously praised the perfectly cooked bird, but I'm fairly sure no one ate more of it after that meal. Since I don't like turkey all that much myself, I've never bothered trying to make it. Instead, my husband usually broils a couple turkey legs or I'll make something really unconventional like turkey noodle soup. Our plans this year actually contain an entire young turkey (already thawing in the fridge) along with some peanut oil, propane, and a brand new fryer.

Although I do enjoy attempting to assemble a meal for family and friends, it's so much easier visiting someone who's hosting. One year on Thanksgiving morning, my mom declared she was not doing Thanksgiving. One of our friends had already given an open invitation to everyone in their bible study to spend the holiday with them, so my dad, brother, and I went to their house. I never understood why someone would call off Thanksgiving until I did the same thing, confessing to my husband through tears that I couldn't handle the stress and work of a big meal when it was for only two people.

My husband and I lived in California for the first six years of our marriage. I worked at a bank and would see a lot of small business owners come in every day to make deposits. Paul owned the gas station across the street and would invite all of us who worked at the bank over to his family's big Thanksgiving meal. They would set up bunches of folding tables and chairs at their gas station and hosted at least fifty people every year.

One of my favorite things to do for the Holiday is invite someone over who may not have anywhere to go: individuals who live far away from family, people who just moved to the United States and don't really celebrate our thanksgiving, and friends who may not be getting along with their own family at the time. I view it almost like inviting someone over for dinner, but instead of bringing wine, they'll bring a pumpkin pie. And god knows that I struggle with making pumpkin pie.

For me, the holiday isn't so much about focusing on the circumstances and things in life that I should be grateful for. It's about being thankful to those close to me:

I'm thankful for my amazing mother who just needed a day off, my wonderful father who never asked for turkey again, and my brother who always defended me at the kids' table. I'm thankful for friends from Germany, my coworker who graciously didn't comment on my questionable cooking, and my friend who was so busy, the only evening he had free was Thursday. I'm thankful for my aunt who cooks as well as I do and still hosts most years, my best friend that didn't mention when I dropped by that her extended family was coming over and let me crash at their holiday meal, and the small business owner who invited everyone in town to celebrate with his family. I'm thankful for my beautiful children and husband. I'm thankful for all the times I did get to celebrate Thanksgiving with my sister.

And, I'm thankful for you. Thank you for being a part of my life and taking the time to get to know me. I love you from the bottom of my heart and hope that you have a blessed Thanksgiving.

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