I’ve heard the stories and seen the movies, but never really understood the anxiety people have around getting together with their family and a holiday meal. Maybe it’s because most of my extended family have passed on? Maybe it’s because my in-laws and my parents actually like each other? Maybe it’s because as I’ve aged, I’ve taken on the role of the holiday cook? Or, maybe I’m just lucky. No matter what the reason I’ve always considered this one of the things I’m very thankful for.
But this year, I entered an alternate universe or stepped into someone else’s life, and suddenly it’s all changed. I’ve learned a lot heading into this Thanksgiving. I’m not hosting. I’m not making any food. I’m not even helping in preparation. My only responsibility is to bring the beer and wine and to be on time. Yep, it’s a different year.
One of the few things we can really count on in life is that life will change. We can resist the change or we can flow with it. Thanks to my son and Miley Cyrus, I flow a lot better with change now. So here’s what I’ve learned about family and a holiday meal. It doesn’t matter if you have turkey or ham; it doesn’t matter if you roast a bird or stick it in a bag; it doesn’t matter if your sweet potatoes have rosemary or marshmallow; it doesn’t matter if your stuffing comes from a box or is handmade; it doesn’t matter if you eat pumpkin pie or pecan pie. Really, none of the food on the table is the important part. It’s just one meal, but it’s an opportunity to connect with family during that one meal.
And no matter how drunk Uncle Bob gets or how soupy the mashed potatoes, how many times you’ve heard Grandpa Joe’s stories, how lumpy the gravy, or how embarrassing your sister is with her new boyfriend, these people who care about us in their own way are willing to feed and nurture us. None of it may be perfect. We don’t get to choose our family. But we do get to choose our reactions. And in the end we always have the memories to laugh or vent about later to the friends we have chosen. For that, I’m eternally grateful, because life is really only the memories you have.
So have a happy Thanksgiving wherever and with whomever your day finds you.