As spouses, we have all experienced holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, and milestones without our military partner. We have to adapt and change on a moment’s notice, and lifelong traditions go away pretty quickly.
Before becoming a military spouse, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. A day dedicated to food, family, parades, and dog shows? Sign me up.
From my earliest memories, I would wake up and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, followed by the National Dog Show, and eat an obscene amount of mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and pumpkin pie (I do that thing where I put so much whipped cream on the pie slice that one wonders if there is actually any pie on the plate). I always imagined that when I got married that my spouse would just be sitting next to me watching my favorite things and also consuming copious amounts of food with me. However, my spouse has been in the Army for six years and my life-long traditions and idealizations of holidays have long gone out the window. My new Thanksgiving tradition is having a new Thanksgiving experience every year:
2014: The One Where He Joined the Army
Spouse gone thanks to Basic Training. Welcome to the military life. Thankfully, still got my parades, dog show, food, and family.
2015: The One Where We Got To Have A “Traditional” Thanksgiving
Actually got both of our families together and celebrated Thanksgiving in what most would consider the “traditional” sense. We should do this every year.
2016: The One That Felt Like “This TDY Will Never End”
Never mind. Joking. Spouse gone thanks to unaccompanied TDY. At this point, he had been gone for around five months, so I was particularly cranky this Thanksgiving. Nonetheless, I got to spend it with my immediate family and watch the parades and dog shows.
2017: The One When I Went Camping
Spouse on staff duty, so I went and ate with some relatives at a campground a couple of hours away from our duty station.
2018: The One With Tikka Masala
Yay! Thanksgiving together! Yet, we couldn’t make it all the way to our home state, and we were full-time RV’ers, so, Thanksgiving dinner was a fantastic “meal-for-two” at a local Indian restaurant.
2019: The One When He PCS’ed
Whelp, spouse gone again. This time he had to PCS ahead of me, so I got to spend Thanksgiving with family, parades, and dog shows. He spent Thanksgiving week across five states.
2020: The One Where He Goes TDY, Again
Yep, gone again.The icing on the cake of the year that is 2020. Literally, spouse is leaving two days before Thanksgiving on an unaccompanied nine-month-long TDY. A close second for the title of this Thanksgiving was “The One Where I Thought of Friends-episode-themed titles for the past seven Thanksgivings.”
That makes four of seven Thanksgivings completely apart (I’m not counting the year he was on staff duty because he was *technically* in the area, just working, and we got to spend the next day together). We’ve had a whopping ONE Thanksgiving spent together in the way that I always dreamed. This isn’t to say that Indian-food Thanksgiving wasn’t awesome, but as a way to say that over time we have had to overcome and adapt.
I’m sure everyone reading this has spent at least one major holiday/milestone apart, and more than a few have probably spent more than four Thanksgivings apart. I’ve given up on the idea of having a “traditional” or “ideal” Thanksgiving ever again and have learned to change my perspective to be excited about what is going to make the upcoming Thanksgiving different from the last. As you can see above, this year my spouse will be gone again. I won’t have enough to get from our current duty station to our home state to spend it with my family, so I’m figuring out how to still make it a fun day. The Macy’s Parade and National Dog Show (if they aren’t canceled…) will definitely be playing in my household and I still have to decide what kind of food I want to order. How have you adapted to solo Thanksgivings over years?