Rituals and traditions have always been tantamount in my family. We celebrated half birthdays. Had elaborate games waiting for the school bus. Passover Seders always included song and dances, along with a musical number written, directed and performed by the kids. There were Hannukah gift scavenger hunts. And there were even rituals to prevent us from knowing scary stuff was going on; Chemo Wednesdays were occupied with ice cream and library parties. But my favorite holiday, and quite possibly the simplest tradition, has always been Thanksgiving.
I have so many memories of glossy turkeys and toasted marshmallows on perfectly-lumpy sweet potatoes, loads of family and friends lined up on several tables. Many memories are so vivid, with all their glory and heartbreak. There was the first Thanksgiving after my parents separated, where an 8-year-old me very clearly heard the parent of one of my best friends make it known that she was only there for her daughter, and that she believed my mom was responsible for the end of the marriage. There was the first Thanksgiving when I returned from college, when I was straddling between childhood and adulthood. Then there was the first Thanksgiving after my mom and stepdad moved out of our childhood home and down to Florida. We dined at a country club. The meal was full of laughs and love, but it was missing something. There was the first Thanksgiving spent with just Jason's family, where I fought with the feeling that I was cheating on my birth family. All of these celebrations, however frought with emotions, all contained one
basic ritual. One that I brought to Jason's family and will likely continue for many years to come.
You may do something similar at your household, but I like to believe that my mom created it. Everyone goes around and states what they're truly thankful for. I usually start with gratitude for my health, followed by my family and friends, and my sense of humor that allows me to overcome trying circumstances.
This year, in lieu of a traditional Thanksgiving meal, I traveled down to Dallas with Jason's family, to experience an NFL game at the House that Jerry Jones Built. It wasn't just any football game; it was a classic NFC East showdown between my beloved Philadelphia Eagles and the despised Dallas Cowboys. It was also my nearly 10-month-old daughter's first live pigskin experience. It was extraordinary.
However, I can't say I wasn't disappointed to be missing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, to have the opportunity to go around the table and express my thanks, especially given a year full of so many milestones. I was wallowing in that sadness when we finally got around to eating at 10:45 p.m. from a buffet at a Marriott. I was just about to stuff a forkful of room-temperature stuffing into my mouth when my mother-in-law let out a "wait." From her hand bag, she pulled out a Thanksgiving-themed plastic tablecloth and paper cups, that she had brought all the way from Philadelphia. A nod to tradition and something that made my heart swell with love.
Since I didn't have a chance to say it around a table, I'll do it now. First off, thank you to my parents for always making me feel worthy of these traditions and rituals. For making my childhood fun and full. For imparting in me the importance of these things that I can carry on. Thank you to my husband for humoring me in many of these things. For supporting me and valuing our family and what we've created together. Thank you to Linda & Marc, for introducing new traditions that I'll be able to share. As hard as it is to believe, I was not exposed to Thanksgiving football as a child. And thank you to the rest of my family and friends for making this last year even more special.
Lastly, thank you to my beautiful, funny, bright and sweet little girl for joining us and reminding me just how important these traditions really are. I promise you dessert before dinner nights, games while waiting for the school bus, lunch box notes, Thanksgiving football and, of course, Thanksgiving gratitude.