Thanksgiving Reinvented: We Don't Celebrate on Turkey Day

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It was Thanksgiving Day, 1993. My youngest son was at the “Ice Bowl,” the fond term for the year the Dallas Cowboys played in record snow and ice. I stood next to my dad’s bed, with what was left of his frail body. He was too weak to have a voice, and in within a few hours of the day he left this world. It was one of the hardest days of my life.

Of all the things about the cold, icy day in November 1993, I remember my dad wanted us to spend Thanksgiving with his family one last time. For reasons I’ll never understand, my mother did not plan to fulfill his wishes. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, he was so ill it wouldn’t have mattered. But the day he left us, I remember his family bringing food and all of us sharing a Thanksgiving meal after all.

Growing up, celebrating holidays and birthdays with just the four of us was our normal. My brother, I and my parents would sit at the round table in the kitchen. Many years dreams of big family get-togethers with all the cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents were left unfulfilled. I yearned for the buffets of food and tables decorated with fine china and silver likely passed down from generations before. I listened intently as my friends would tell me of their trips to other towns to visit relatives. Their stories of adventures, chatter, cousins to play with and memories filled my imagination.

Years have passed and dreams were forgotten. Until the recent years as my own children grew up and out and into their own families. As our grandchild population began to grow, it was difficult to manage the holidays. For a while it seemed my heart would again be disappointed and dreams of family holidays would be marred by the struggle and stress of planning and trying to get everyone in the same place at the same time. My mama heart longs for her children to come home once in a while, but the stress and push/pull between us and their in-laws and other family members was only increased by trying to create a perfect holiday.

Thanksgiving 07

I write this a week-and-a-half before Thanksgiving Day. It’s the end of the day and we just finished our Thanksgiving celebration this year. It’s by far one of the best. As I danced around the kitchen this morning, cooking and cleaning and preparing our favorite foods, I realized my heart’s desires were being fulfilled in that moment. The fine china was on the table, the centerpieces were made and set out with joy as the table became the center of our celebration. I cooked each item with love, carefully planning the execution of the meal. The desserts were on display, the wassail simmered on the stove and just in time, a cold front came through dropping the temps to give us a Thanksgiving type of day.

There came a point in our lives we had to choose the priority around the holidays. Did we want time with our children, or did we believe we had to celebrate when the calendar dictated the holiday? Two of our adult children are married, one is divorced and we are both on our second marriage. When juggling the schedules around all of these factors, it again adds stress to a time we should be celebrating. So, we made the conscious choice we would rather have the time with our family.

Sometime in early October we begin to check our schedules and find a day we can celebrate. We communicate this to everyone and we have to be ok if for some reason someone just can’t make it. We don’t prefer it, but we also understand each of our adult children have their own families and responsibilities. We try to plan Thanksgiving and Christmas in advance so there is plenty of notice. We have our traditions; they just may happen on different dates of the month. We’ve discovered time is truly what you make of it, and we don’t have to allow the calendar to dictate our celebrations.

My dad would’ve loved a day like today. Watching as the grandbabies play, running around and making memories with each other. The boys in the family had their traditional marathon monopoly game while the girls hung out in the living room. After dinner, pie was the dessert of choice and laughter billowed through the house. It was a good day, and a Thanksgiving I’ll not soon forget. My mama heart is full.

 

Photo Credit: deapeajay.

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