I skipped yesterday's NaBloPoMo post b/c I was busy enjoying Sex in the City w/ my besty and yenta, followed by a yummy taco dinner with them and our families. When it was all said and done, the fam and I hit up Michael's so Trin could spend the last little bit of her bday gift card there. (I may or may not have bought myself about 7 rolls of Halloween ribbon on clearance.) Before I knew it, it was time for me to hit the hay b/c I had to be at work at 5am today.
Because I skipped yesterday, I feel like I need to make up for it by posting something outside of the Mama drama or ex drama that has taken over my posts lately. Given the time of year, I think it's only right that I write about my all-time favorite holiday: Thanksgiving.
There are a few reasons why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. One of those is the fact that it doesn't involve giving a gift of some kind. Well, not exactly, anyway. Yes, sharing food, time, and gratitude with family and friends is a gift, but those things don't cost a lot and are far more valuable than anything you can wrap in a box and top with a pretty bow. Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas and getting/receiving gifts is fun to a degree, but there is so much pressure involved in all of that. Thanksgiving is about gathering together and eating a delicious meal with people you may or may not see on a regular basis.
My love for Thanksgiving started as a child. All year I looked forward to my Mom's family's Thanksgiving celebration. Because my Mom is one of 12 kids, our family would have to rent a large space for us to gather. Thinking back to all those years we spent coming together in those rented spaces, I don't recall anything unhappy at all. Not one single bad memory. But oh! The good memories are numerous and rich. I can flashback to those holidays and almost feel the olives on the tips of my fingers, popping them into my mouth one-by-one the going back for 10 more. I can smell the turkey and stuffing and deviled eggs and pumpkin pie. The noise of so many people making small talk, the men playing the occasional game of cards, the woman bustling about in the kitchen. Several of those years together, we would do family pictures. We'd all dress up in our nicest clothes and try to keep them neat and clean until our pictures were done. Then us kids would gather together in a separate room and play games with whatever fun things we could find. Some years there were jump ropes, one year I recall watching my cousin Marlaina play Chopsticks on a piano that adorned the "play room". I watched in awe as the older cousins interacted, seeming so cool and mature. I wanted to be just like them. And my younger cousins were so adorable, I loved to play the Mother Hen and help take care of them. There were squeals and laughter and silliness in abundance. We would all go home full and tired, and I would count down the months until we could do it all again.
As the years passed, the family gatherings got smaller and smaller, and eventually my parents either stopped getting invited or stopped attending. When my Mom and stepdad's drug addiction was at it's worst, we didn't have holidays at all. I longed for more of the big gatherings like we were used to having, so when I got married the first time, I was anxious to be a part of a new family and relive some of that magic of family holidays. Unfortunately, the magic wasn't there. We spent a few years going out of town to visit my ex's Mom's side of the family early in the day, then his Dad's side of the family in the evening. I never fit in with his Mom's side, but his Dad's side of the family welcomed me and I had a special affection for his Grandma. (So much so that Trinity shares her middle name.) Still, there seemed to be something missing. It just didn't feel the same.
After moving back out to my hometown, I had hoped to rekindle that family bond and enjoy the big gathering from the "grown-up" perspective. It didn't happen, so I started cooking Thanksgiving dinner at home. One year it was just myself and my 1st husband, then another year we invited a few family members over. That year, in particular, I recall wanting to invite a co-worker who was living in his car and had no family to spend the holiday with. My ex ixnayed the idea without a bit of consideration, but thankfully that was our last holiday together.
My first Thanksgiving with Justin wasn't the best, but they steadily got better as years went on. Our first year together, we made an appearance at my Mom's family Thanksgiving. It was a brief visit, and until this year, was my last time attending/being invited to their holiday gathering. After the visit with my family, we went to Justin's parents house. His sister was extremely rude to me, so in spite of enjoying the company of the rest of his family, I left in tears. He vowed we'd never celebrate with them again, but I was against the idea and by the next year, we were married and his sister toned down her bitchiness toward me. She still had to put on airs to try to make Justin and me feel less than, but it didn't work and I was settled into the family enough to sit back and giggle at the dysfunction. My mother in law and sister in law would have their annual holiday argument, sometimes my sister in law would storm out, sometimes she'd stay. Regardless, I enjoyed that time and thinking back, even at it's worst, it was wonderful.
The first Thanksgiving after Judy passed was hard. We had just started the process of buying her house, but didn't live there yet. Since we had access to it, we decided to have our family Thanksgiving there for nostalgia's sake. Our group had dwindled down since we were no longer speaking to Justin's sister, but my yenta and her family came to celebrate with us. There was a bit of drama with our nephew b/c he was trying to take stuff out of Judy's house. I had to confront him and tried my best to stay calm as I explained that the holiday was not the time to be going through her stuff and taking it. I assured him he'd get to go through it all once probate was over, but that he was there to celebrate Thanksgiving and not ransack his Grandma's house. That was the last time I saw him. He has refused to speak to us since then.
Last Thanksgiving my yenta was spending time with her manfriend's family, so it was just our 4 plus Justin's Dad. I think my father in law brought my niece over at some point, but I honestly don't remember now because I was so sleep deprived at that point, all that time seems like a blur. Either way, it was a low-key holiday and sort of felt like any other day.
This year is going to be quite a bit different. Around noon we'll have our little Thanksgiving at home with my father in law, and possibly my besty and her hubs. Afterward, we'll be joining my Mom's family for a big Thanksgiving at one of the places we used to rent when I was a kid. I am beyond excited for this year's festivities!! This will be the first time in several years that my Mom and both her kids were all together for Thanksgiving. Not only that, but all her Grand kids will be there, too. I'm trying not to put too high expectations on the day, but I can't help myself. Having all those warm memories from my childhood, on top of my natural excitement for Thanksgiving, makes it very difficult to stay level headed. I hope the turnout is as good as it once was. As far as I know, there will be about 50 people attending the family Thanksgiving, but possibly more. There will be a lot of food and a lot of family. That day should be long and exhausting, but I'm hoping to end it the way I did as a kid: with a full belly and a full heart.