Someone, somewhere, is having a beautiful, traditional meal with their whole family on Thanksgiving Day.
It’s not us.
The days of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins squeezing around a bountiful table on the fourth Thursday of the month are over for us. At least for now. The gatherings will happen, but they’ll be on off-days. Weekends before — or after — the actual date.
When my husband and I first married, I could never have foreseen such carefree, unscheduled holidays. After all, for hundreds, maybe thousands of years, my family had eaten turkey at my parents’ house on Thanksgiving Day. Family had traveled to my mom and dad’s house, carrying pies, cranberry sauce and vats of love. At Christmas, Santa had delivered gifts and stuffed stockings in front of their fireplace since the dawn of time.
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Sharing my grandparents with no first cousins, Christmas and even Fourth of July traditions were carved in granite, and the world revolved around us.
My husband’s family celebrated with their own unwavering traditions. A mix of cousins and grandparents, none of whom ever had to wonder who would surround their table on holidays. They knew what days, and where, they could show up for the festivities.
But when families merge, the plans start getting all catawampus. After marathon holidays traveling from meal to meal to meal, something had to give.
With no hard feelings, a hierarchy defining the “right to choose your holiday get-together date” emerged, based on need. It goes something like this:
The cousin who marries the girl with the most brothers and sisters can call “shotgun!” on the schedule. (They have dozens of people to coordinate — let them claim first.) From there, those who work in hospitals or retail get to pick days they’re not scheduled to work. The most complicated family trees go next. Those with young children who nap can call time. The inhumane expectation of eating two 4,000 calorie meals within a two-hour time frame became apparent, so meals must take place early or late enough to allow for another on the same day.
Eventually, it all shook out, and with no particular scheduling needs, our Thursday remained open.
This is something for which I am thankful — having so many loved ones, all of whom have so many other loved ones that we can’t even get together on this special day. And it leaves me in my own little nest with an opportunity to put our own special spin on giving thanks. Without a schedule. Can I tell you how infrequently we can spend time together without the demands of obligations and to-do lists?
So the question remains — what to do? Treating that day as an average day hardly seems right. I hesitate to declare it “clean the basement day.” But the choices are ours. A special meal? A family hike? A traipse to the Plaza? It’s an opportunity to relax — or to create our own traditions — ones that will be set in stone to our kids. At least for now.
From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving, and may you have many blessings, perhaps even unscheduled time to enjoy.
Overland Park mom and freelancer Emily Parnell writes regulary for 816.