I know, you’re thinking, “of course you survived Thanksgiving… are you kidding?”, but to be honest, the day before, I felt like I was going to fall apart.
I’ve been striving, the last few years, to assemble my in-laws around the dinner table every Thanksgiving, to create some ‘family’ memories, primarily for my son. I wanted him to get to know his extended family better and to have some good memories of them to draw on later in life, as they have been mostly absent in his life.
Since we adopted our son, my husband’s Aunt has always had Thanksgiving dinner with us, even before we were able to get the rest of his family together for the holiday. I had extended an invitation to my best friend and her son, our Godson, for a number of years, to have Thanksgiving dinner with us because of her work schedule. I don’t think we have ever had a Thanksgiving, just the three of us, myself, my husband and son.
This year, after the fallout with my husband’s family and our son’s pleading to please not have anyone over for Thanksgiving dinner, we didn’t extend an invitation to anyone.
At first I was excited to have a relaxing holiday, rather than having to try to accommodate everyone’s demands, seeing as how one family member didn’t want to have to drive home in the dark – in late November the sun sets between 4:30 and 5:00, one family member wanted to be home early to put up their Christmas tree, more than one family member had to eat at specific times due to diabetes, some family members preferred sweet potatoes to mashed potatoes, didn’t eat ‘carbs’ like biscuits, but would eat stuffing, certain family members wanted specific drinks, my friend needed me to accommodate her work schedule so she would drop in long enough to eat and then leave as soon as she finished.
As the holiday approached, I started to feel kind of ’empty’. I think the hub-bub of preparation had become an expected part of the holiday, it just didn’t seem right not having the frantic preparation, organization, trying to make everyone happy.
I started feeling kind of ‘let down’, as if the ‘specialness’ of the holiday, the tradition of Thanksgiving being a ‘family’ holiday, was missing.
I tried very hard to hide my anxiety, and the depression that was creeping in, from my family. My son was excited to have ‘just us’ for the holiday and was worried, I think, that Mom was going to change her mind and invite someone, because he kept asking me, nearly every day for the two weeks before the holiday if it was just going to be us, if no one else was going to be here.
Thanksgiving morning I got out of bed, dressed and came into the kitchen to help get the turkey in the oven. Once we had the bird in the oven, my husband and I took Kodi for a walk. We had a nice walk, took our cameras with us and did some photography while we were out. When we got home we made a lovely brunch and settled in to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Our Godson visited for a couple hours, then went home before dinner and returned for dessert.
When the turkey was nearing being done, my husband and son came into the kitchen and the three of us worked together on preparing dinner. My son and I had previously made his recipe for stuffing balls, so we put those in the oven. He had a recipe for glazed carrots that he worked on, while I peeled potatoes and then started working on gravy. My son set the table as my husband finished the potatoes and put our drinks on the table. He carved the turkey as everything finished cooking at the same time and we sat down together for dinner. We put Christmas music on during dinner.
As we were fixing our plates I started to cry. At that very moment it struck me how incredible our day had been, how wonderful the food was, how happy I was, how relaxed we all were. We had worked on dinner together, sat down together as a family and were able to eat when we wanted, what we wanted, how we wanted. There was such a sense of ‘relief’, if that’s the right word… like we could breathe. We were doing it for us and it was, without a doubt, the best Thanksgiving we had enjoyed since becoming a family.
After dinner, we all cleaned up the kitchen and put the left overs away for the weekend, we watched a movie and had dessert. The rest of the evening we just relaxed.
I really had an epiphany sitting at the table that day… here I was trying so hard to ‘create’ a family gathering, including people who clearly didn’t even really want to be there, always feeling a bit overwhelmed and disappointed, but all along, we had each other, we had a loving family that was comfortable, relaxed and happy. I was trying to ‘create’ something I already had and in doing so was creating stress and disappointment for the people I love, who truly love me.
I appreciate my loving family, more than ever. They are all that is important. As long as we have each other, every day is a holiday.