Thanksgiving with my family always looks the same: Mom cooks and preps for days making Turkey, green beans, stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, all the usual suspects. She gets up early and gets things started in her robe and slippers. Once things are cooking away, she gets ready before our company arrives. My aunt Sandy always comes and brings sweet potatoes with marshmallows. One time there were no marshmallows. My cousins still haven’t recovered from the shock and anguish. Never again will the sweet potatoes be marshmallow-less. We cook and chat and eat absurd amounts of appetizers while we wait for dinner. Dinner is around 4 and by the time we sit down at the table, we’re all exhausted and stuffed. After a very long, many-coursed dinner, we still have full trays of every type of food. Towards the end of dinner, we all try to sneak away to lay on the couch and avoid cleaning up and doing dishes. There are a LOT of dishes. Our dining room table is always absolutely perfect- a beautiful tablecloth with cloth napkins, candles, decorations, and beautiful china plates for the many courses (none of which can go in the dishwasher).
For the past several years, Kenny and I have rotated Thanksgivings- one year with his family, one year with mine. But in truth, we always try to see both families. If we are with my family, we leave after dinner and drive to Pennsylvania where Kenny’s family has a farm. We arrive miraculously hungry again and eat plates full of their Thanksgiving leftovers. Usually, we stay the weekend at the Farm and soak up the time with Kenny’s family.
Thanksgiving with Kenny’s family always looks the same, too. When we’re with his family, we start at the Farm. All of his cousins and aunts and uncles come and stay. We wake up Thanksgiving morning and there are cousins everywhere- every couch, every chair, all over the floor, occasionally on air mattresses. People sleepily get up and have some breakfast and then it’s just a day of hanging out. Kenny’s mom does the entire dinner. People filter in and out of the kitchen and get assigned various tasks to help with prep. By the late afternoon, there is a giant buffet of food- all the same classics my family has (but in slightly more reasonable amounts). The only difference is that we have mashed potatoes and Kenny’s family has mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, and mashed turnips or parsnips (I think that’s what it is… whatever it is made of, it’s delicious). The family gathers around a massive wood table and eats and drinks and laughs for hours. We usually spend the night at the Farm and then leave the next day to drive to CT and spend the weekend with my family.
So, we always get Thanksgiving time with both our families. It is occasionally exhausting with the travel and so many people to see, but it’s definitely worth it to see both families (and to have a good excuse to sneak off to PA instead of doing dishes).
This year, things were different. Kenny’s parents have moved to Florida, so they had to fly up to visit for Thanksgiving. My parents no longer have their big dining room and our apartment only has 4 chairs, so there was no space for giant celebrations. And most importantly, we have a newborn baby.
This year, because my family has no good place to celebrate, my mom, dad and older brother went to celebrate with family in PA. My aunt and uncle happen to have a house that’s just a mile down the road from Kenny’s family farm. We had planned to have Thanksgiving both with my extended family AND Kenny’s family down the road. But our little Malcolm was ten days late. That meant that by the time he was born, he was a week old on Thanksgiving and that I was a week into my recovery. We worried about exposing Malcolm to so many people and germs all at once and my doctor specifically said I could not take long car rides. The trip is about two hours. We were definitely bummed about missing BOTH our families for the holidays. But after a week of being new parents, Kenny still working some days, and a lot of visitors the first week, we actually relished the idea of a quiet weekend with only the three of us.
Our Thanksgiving looked like this. Leading up to the holiday, we spent time with my mom and dad, my younger brother and his girlfriend came to meet Malcolm, Kenny’s local extended family came for a brunch, my cousin’s family came for a visit, and other family flew in for visits- Kenny’s parents from Florida, his brother from California, and my brother from New Hampshire. Couple that with a last minute rush to the pediatrician and a late night rush to Target for baby supplies, and we were worn out. Did I mention the feeding and sleeping troubles our little Malcolm has? That’s an entire post in and of itself. We were so ready for a quiet weekend.
This Thanksgiving, Kenny and I had our first holiday alone. Just the two of us and our baby. And it was perfect. We missed our families. We Facetimed a lot. We had Thanksgiving lunch with my parents and Grandma before they headed down to PA. But at the end of the day, our little tiny family was together and alone for the first time.
Thanksgiving Day, after eating out with my family, Kenny and I decided to do a second Thanksgiving meal. We got to Whole Foods as it was closing (this is a new thing we do- arrive everywhere super late and just before it closes) and split up to grab the necessaries- turkey, potatoes, etc. We got home around 4 and cuddled up to watch Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. This movie is a classic in my family- Steve Martin is trying to make it home for Thanksgiving and runs into every trouble imaginable and can’t seem to shake his obnoxious travel companion, John Candy. I fell dead asleep on the couch and woke to the smell of Thanksgiving dinner.
Kenny had made everything- Turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy. We ate as Malcolm slept and spent the evening doing laundry and cleaning. It felt so good after a week of slight chaos to have everything tidied up and in its place. We are slowly but surely coming up with a system… but it takes a lot of trial and error. We went to bed early, got up several times with the baby, slept in late, and had a slow morning. All in all it was a perfect day. It’s not the one I would have planned if I had been planning. But I would have planned something more elaborate and intentional when what we really needed was a slow pace and some relaxation.
I’m writing this the day after Thanksgiving while Kenny makes soup from the leftovers and I cuddle our sleeping baby.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
How do you celebrate Thanksgiving? How have your traditions changed as your families have grown?