Friday, December 2

My Thanksgiving Quandary

Happy post-Thanksgiving! I have to admit that my holiday was much more low-key than what everyone else seemed to enjoy. I have a small family – scratch that. I have a large family too far away to see often, and the hubby’s side all celebrate with their spouse’s family – so Thanksgiving is just our household.

It’s a fact which causes me a fair amount of angst.

I have wonderful memories of Thanksgiving growing up. We would spend Thanksgiving Eve chopping and gibleting and preparing ingredients to be thrown together and cooked all day long on Thanksgiving day. Dad would enjoy a few beers while we hustled around the kitchen all day. Then, once we hung up our figurative aprons after drying the mountain of dirty dishes and pans, he would bake his pies. On occasion (blame the beer), he would forget an ingredient or two, but usually the pies were masterpieces. The next day, more of the same, with singing and festive music, culminating in a delicious meal and family fellowship. We would set our table to the nines, with elegant cloth napkins in beautiful rings, exquisite centerpieces, fine china, and Waterford crystal drinkware. Tapered candles around the room would glow warmly. The family silver—which we’d spent days cleaning in preparation—would reflect the lights like twinkling stars. And dinner would be followed be yet another mountain of dirty dishes.

End the hazy-around-the-edges flashback scene and pan to the stark present: We purchase the Bob Evans Thanksgiving dinner and spend maybe an hour heating it up. Scarf it all down, then I toss the few dirty plates and utensils into the sink to be washed at a later time (like, when there’s nothing clean left to eat on). This year, we took our meal up to step-daughter’s poor-college-student-living-in-a-two-bedroom-apartment-smaller-than-a-closet-with-a-rent-the-size-of-my-mortgage place and sat at mismatched chairs around a small table in their dining room/living room/den. Yes, there was a papasan chair involved. There might have even been milk crates. Either way, it was a far cry from my childhood memories.

Don’t get me wrong. Our family gathering this year was lots of fun. We had plenty of food and tons of laughter. The just-starting-out-in-life apartment was quaint and brought back fond memories of my own early adulthood (cue the hazy edges). We drove down the Chicago Magnificent Mile and oohed and ahhed at the beautiful Christmas lights.

To a certain extent, my family’s Thanksgiving celebration reflects who we are:  low-key and low-maintenance. Hubby doesn’t cook and the kiddos are too young/easily-distracted-by-television to help much with cooking, and no one seems to mind that I take the easy way out and order Bob Evans. Then we get a nice long weekend to do whatever we want.
But I still worry I’m doing it wrong. Am I robbing my children of their own twinkling, sparkling, hazy-around-the-edges memories? By taking the easy road, am I relegating Thanksgiving to just another meal? By allowing our celebration to be “just us,” am I denying my children the understanding that family is so much more than parent/child? (And if so, how do I invite my family to someone else’s celebration, just so we can avoid being lame?) Should I force my children to polish silver and dice vegetables with me just because that’s what I did as a kid? Do I break out the fine china and crystal and cloth napkins, regardless of how much I (don’t) love doing dishes and laundry, because those are my memories that I want to impose on my kids?

Like I said, I struggle with it. And I’ll probably write a very similar post after Christmas, when it’s once again “just us” being low-key and low-maintenance. In the meantime, I’m hankering for more Bob Evans turkey dinner. Maybe I can talk the hubby into going there tonight!

12 comments:

  1. "Our family gathering this year was lots of fun. We had plenty of food and tons of laughter." That is the best there is--nothing else matters. A great post, as usual. We're gonna have to have an intervention on "post envy"--I'm sure it's a real malady...

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    1. Lol! Not "post envy"... but maybe "life envy"! ;-)

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  2. We were a much smaller group this year as our family spreads out and adult kids begin to make their own Thanksgiving traditions. That's what you're doing, simply making your own family traditions. They don't have to match your childhood memories, and your kids will remember peaceful, fun days with Mom and Dad, or driving up to Chicago to their sister's apartment with a carload of food and sharing it with her roomies...sounds like it was a good way to celebrate the fellowship of Thanksgiving, and isn't that what it's all about anyway?

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    1. I guess if they complain, I can always make them polish silver and dice veggies so they can see what they're "missing"! ;-)

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  3. I also had the elaborate Thanksgiviing/Christmas/Easter, etc. gatherings and meals as a kid. When it became just our little family we sometimes had just cheese, fruit, crackers and wine in the woods. Now it is a pitch-in affair with friends and family and we even use paper plates now and then. It is a time for enjoying each other and not being exhausted and cranky from all the prep. Sp, enjoy the day and just being together.

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    1. Paper plates?! I love it... that is my kind of celebration! ;-)

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  4. no, you're not robbing them of anything, you're giving them memories of time spent together, whether you're in the kitchen together or not. And I've ordered that Bob Evans dinner before - it is YUM!

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    1. IKR! I can't make a meal for that price that's even half as tasty!

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  5. I think in this day and age, if half your party isn't consumed with social media and ignoring each other--you've got a win :)

    When I was growing up, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter was the only time we used Mom's china. I don't even have china. LOL

    This year, we went to my sister's in-laws and had the biggest--people and food-- Thanksgiving we've ever done. It was wonderful. I didn't have to cook or do dishes. Win-win. :)

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    1. Margie - LOL on the social media point! Glad you had a big Thanksgiving... one year, one kiddo was very upset because they thought Thanksgiving was akin to a party, and didn't understand why no one came to our party. ;-)

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  6. I agree that the most important part of any holiday is the fun and laughter part, not how fancy the table is. Your kids will remember the fun times, don't worry.

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