I am a holiday junkie. There I said it. I love this time of year. I love everything about it. The decorations, the music, the food, all of it, and I always have. Thanksgiving is one of my favorites. I always loved having lots of family around, everyone helping in the kitchen, all the food smelling up the house. Football being played in the front yard, the Macy’s Day Parade on TV, the house full of people you love, filled with the sounds of Thanksgiving. Some of my favorite memories are from Thanksgiving. That is how I remember it always.
Growing up we always did the traditional Thanksgiving. Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie with all the family together and it was wonderful. Sure, we had our own family traditions as well. Dates stuffed with peanut butter, a family football game, Andes mints for the kids after dinner; but all my years growing up we always did pretty much the same thing each year. It was our traditional Thanksgiving and probably a lot like yours.
When I first moved away from home with my husband and we were stationed thousands of miles from family I was devastated when the Holidays came around. What would I do? My husband was on patrol and I was alone in a new place. I couldn’t travel home due to work and my family couldn’t come to me. I was heartbroken. As Thanksgiving came I started to think, why did it have to be sad? Why couldn’t I recreate my family Thanksgiving for myself? Even though I was alone I could still make it feel like Thanksgiving. I knew all the recipes, I had made the food for years, so why not?
The day before Thanksgiving I went to the grocery store and bought everything I would need. I got a small chicken instead of a turkey, got all my favorite vegetables and the ingredients for my favorite stuffing. I even got everything to make a pie from scratch. I would do it for myself. And I did. I spent all day cooking, just like if I was home. I watched the parade, had football on TV, got my favorite wine and had a really wonderful day. I started my own tradition by breaking with tradition. Sure, I didn’t really have a choice but to break with tradition since we lived so far away but I was proud of myself. I had taken a tough situation and made it ok, like we so often do in this life.
Each year after that first one away from home, I did Thanksgiving my way. Some years I was alone, some years my husband was home. Some years we were with part of our family. Each year we continued to make our own traditions and today they are normal for us. It is what we do. Some years we have stuffed shells or ham. Some years I make pecan pie and some years I do pumpkin. Some years on Thanksgiving I put holiday music on and decorate my house for Christmas. And one year we invited all our other military friends over for a big dinner since none of us could travel home.
I will never forget that first Thanksgiving I was alone. It made me realize that I could survive this life. I could make it through the time of year that is the hardest to be away from family. So many times difficult situations allow us to become who we were meant to be and sometimes we can find ourselves surrounded by family even when they are miles away, through memories, recipes, and little traditions.
Sometimes I still wish I could be at home with my family every year. Some years I am with family, sometimes all of them, sometimes just a few- but no matter what I remember to be thankful for my life and everyone in it, regardless of how far away they might be. I know that when my daughter is old enough, no matter where we live, we will start even more of our own traditions and you know what, I can’t wait.