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The Heart of Life: Thanksgiving

Monday, November 21, 2011


When my husband and I got married, we knew dividing our time between both of our families during the holidays would be tricky. I'm not too worried about Christmas. When we have kids, I want to have at least Christmas Eve night and Christmas morning at our own house, so we might as well start out that way. Then we'll celebrate with each of our families whenever it's convenient. There seems to be so much more celebration time with Christmas, because you can celebrate it a week early or a week late and it still feels like Christmas.

Thanksgiving has a much more limited time frame. You've got about 4 days to get your celebration in before you have to go back to work. Even then, you have to hurry and celebrate Thanksgiving within a day of the actual holiday or your world will suddenly go into Christmas-mode and you'll completely miss it. After a few days, it's no longer Thanksgiving dinner, but an early celebration of Christmas.

Thus, we have about a two-day window to get our Thanksgivings in. The 300 mile round trip journey to both of our parents houses in 4 days seemed ridiculous (not to mention expensive). We also considered alternating our families each year, but my own family has an alternation system as well. The thought of choosing between always missing my dad's family's celebration or always missing my mom's family's celebration made me want to cry. Seeing my reaction, my husband suggested that we just go to my family's celebration this year and then figure things out as we go. He told me Thanksgiving wasn't a very big deal in his family anyway, so it didn't matter. I didn't like that idea either. Thanksgiving is a big deal! He needs to be with his family on (or near) Thanksgiving just as much as I need to be with mine.

Before I continue, I need to explain why Thanksgiving is such a big deal to me. Growing up, Thanksgiving was one of those "whatever" holidays. Kind of like St. Patrick's Day or Valentines Day. It was fun, but I had no deep, endearing love for it.

That was before I got my wisdom teeth out my senior year of high school. My mom and I scheduled it the day before Thanksgiving because then I'd have a few extra days to recover without missing school. It was the perfect plan. However, this perfect plan made for a perfectly miserable Thanksgiving. My head throbbed every time I moved, eating was next to impossible, and my face looked incredibly chipmunk-y, so I opted to stay home while my family went to my grandparent's house. They stayed there most of the day--I imagine they were eating, playing games, and watching football. I spent the day sitting on my dad's La-Z-Boy chair watching TLC. I ate my Thanksgiving dinner of mashed potatoes, jello, and pudding alone. It was a lonely day.

The following year, I approached Thanksgiving with a completely different attitude. I'd been a college student for about 3 months, and I'd had toast for breakfast, lunch, and dinner more times than I cared to admit. Also, I hadn't seen my family for a while. I had high expectations for Thanksgiving, and I was not disappointed. Dinner was amazing and my family was great. Then it hit me--I have such a great life! I was raised in a good home with a family that loves me. My parents supported and encouraged me every minute of my life. I was taught to work hard, and because of that I was getting a college education. In that moment, I loved every major and minor detail of my life. And I was sincerely thankful.

Ever since then, I've had a tender spot in my heart for Thanksgiving. Every year I think about my lonely wisdom teeth Thanksgiving, and feel so overwhelmingly grateful to be surrounded by my family and to be eating a meal painstakingly prepared by people I love. Thanksgiving is a really special holiday to me.

Anyway, back to the Thanksgiving dilemma. My family decided to celebrate Thanksgiving down in Murray this year, so now it's possible to eat two Thanksgivings and divide our weekend evenly between our families. Problem solved. This year, anyway. It'll become a problem again next year. And maybe every year of my married life. I'm sure there will come a time when celebrating Thanksgiving with my family won't be possible, and I'll probably cry about it. But I'm hoping after a couple years my sentimentality about spending Thanksgiving with my family will wear off a little bit. I want Thanksgivings with just my husband's family to be as happy as Thanksgivings with my family. I also want to have happy Thanksgivings with just me and my husband if we have to. It'll take time to get there, but I think it's possible.

So, regardless of where you are, and who you're with, make sure you have a good one. Happy Thanksgiving!



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