Thanksgiving has always been one of those holidays I look forward to, but I’ve learned to be wary of. I hate disappointment, so I’ve learned not to be too dependent on it. Keep your expectations low and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Thoughts of Thanksgivings Past
Elementary school, first grade, our annual Thanksgiving gathering. Some of us were pilgrims, the other half represented Native Americans. Looking back, this would event would be different today. However, even as a six year old, I didn’t fit in. We weren’t of Native American heritage and we certainly weren’t white. But in first grade, I was a pilgrim. Hmmm…didn’t know much about what to make of that, I just ate the lunch like everyone else.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was part of every Thanksgiving Day early on. We lived in rural Texas. Looking at those kids wrapped up in fur coats watching, or better yet, performing in the parade gave us a little taste of what life was like living in New York City. At the time, we had no idea you probably needed a ton of money to be on the front row, but wow, those floats. And Santa waving at the end. I don’t remember the last time I watched the parade. It’s on one sister’s bucket list and we plan to make it happen. You’re never too old for a parade.
My parents worked hard. When I was in high school, Macy’s parade in the background while I helped make mashed potatoes in the kitchen, I started to see it differently. I’m making the mashed potatoes, but Papa won’t be there for the meal because it’s cotton gin season. If we’re lucky, he’ll show up for leftovers at 9:00 in the evening. Dad is working. Mom is working. We’re going to Nana’s for lunch; those of us who are old enough to help and relatives who aren’t working. Eventually, we set our own date either the weekend before or after to accommodate everyone’s schedules. Some years, it was Shake n’ Bake chicken, mashed potatoes, a can of corn, refrigerated biscuits, and pumpkin pie for lunch. We’ll save Mom a plate when she gets home from her twelve hour shift. Macy’s parade? Maybe for the younger kids. We’ll have turkey at Christmas. Or is this the year we have tamales?
My junior year of undergrad, I transferred to The University of Texas, a good seven hour drive from home. There was no sense in flying home for Thanksgiving only to have to go back a few weeks later. There wasn’t money for it either. With food service down that week, I planned for pizza dinners and trips to convenience stores for sustenance. I made the best of that first friendsgiving with girls from central and south America who studied English at the international school.
One year, a roommate invited me to Thanksgiving dinner with her parents. This was the first time I had the infamous green bean casserole. It was delicious. To me, it seemed like the perfect Normal Rockwell Thanksgiving. We ate off matching china, not styrofoam plates. We sat in a dining room with linens, not Nana’s living room couch. Matching cutlery, no plastic forks. Fancy glasses, not the red Solo cups for our drinks. A buffet table was adorned with desserts so pretty I didn’t want to touch them. Pies, they were full of pies. But I did miss the desserts in the mismatched rectangular Pyrex dishes that cluttered the kitchen.
When we headed back, my roommate thanked me profusely for accompanying her. There was something going on and she didn’t want it to come out on this occasion, thus the invitation. I thanked her profusely for the invitation. I would’ve wound up on the phone for a bit, choking back my words, pretending everything was fine, eating a frozen chicken pot pie and watching TV alone into the wee hours of the night.
I learned to do Thanksgiving on my own for a while, and now, on our own with my family of four. Sometimes we travel to my parents’, sometimes they visit us. There have been Thanksgivings at a Dallas Cowboys game, with friends, with newborns, accompanied with grad school assignments, kicked off with a turkey trot five miler and now with a teen straddling adulthood and tween straddling the teens. Still not quite fitting in, but doing the best we can to be grateful more often than just once day a year.
Thoughts of Thanksgiving Present
I’m grateful for a break. I’ve given up on advocating for a restaurant meal. Not that I don’t enjoy Thanksgiving, but we have so much food. And guess who winds up eating most of the leftovers? This year, I decided to keep quiet and let my husband cook all of the things. It’s his love language. I voted for going out to eat, but he wouldn’t have it. I call our family The Carbdashians. Instead of arguing over which dessert we would bake (I prefer pumpkin pie) I handed the menu over to him, including dessert. I might make Martha Stewart’s pumpkin whoopie pies if the mood strikes. And usually, it doesn’t. I might sign up, last minute for a Turkey Trot, although the hubster warns of rain in the forecast, but that hasn’t stopped me. I’ll stay out of the way and sip on coffee or mimosas. He wants no help in the kitchen, so I’ll do the dishes. All of the dishes because he uses everything we have.
Thoughts of Thanksgiving Future
Who knows how our Thanksgivings will evolve. Maybe the kids will start cooking something. Maybe heating up a can of canned corn. Or following the directions on a box of Shake n’ Bake chicken. Mac ‘n cheese. Maybe they’ll invite friends whose families are hundreds of miles away. Friends will pop in here and there. Maybe no one will need to work, and if they do, we’ll make arrangements to celebrate another time. And maybe some day, we’ll be in New York, bundled up in our winter gear, waving to Santa watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in person.