Y’all, there are very few things that I feel like I lost in my divorce. We split possessions very politely. But there is one irreplaceable thing that I forgot to ask for. You see, while we were married, I hosted my first (and only) traditional Thanksgiving. For the first time ever I had to stick my hand inside a turkey.
Before having any alcohol, my obsessively washed hand had to go inside a slimy, cold, GROSS turkey and pull out gizzards. Because it is well known in my family that I do not do gross, dirty, slimy things, this had to be documented for those that could not be present to watch the spectacle. And it was a spectacle. Dancing around the kitchen. Grimacing and closing my eyes as I put my hands on the cold bird. And complete disbelief when I realized my father’s instructions told me I would have to put my hand up there at least two more times. Considering that that’s the year I decided I’d never again cook a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, I’d give anything for that video. Even if it is one of the least elegant videos of me, at least there would be proof that I did it once.
Of course, the gross out factor is not the only reason I’m not big on the whole roasting a turkey thing. I’m not sure who decided that we all have to have turkey on the same day, but I would like to have some words with them. It has never been one of my favorite foods. In fact, other than the canned cranberry sauce and dessert-like sweet potatoes that grace our table every year, I’m not a fan of anything that is usually found on the holiday table. If I’m going to spend all day cooking for family and friends, I’d much rather it be a meal I’d actually enjoy. This year I have my father and his wife coming to visit and I’ve decided I’d rather he teach me how to cook his amazing brisket. It will be time for us to bond over cooking and me to learn another dish from him that I can cook for years to come. And that bonding time means far more to me than the meal itself.
And I’m not the only person who thinks that tradition should focus on the family more than the feast. Being a military kid and then Sailor means I’ve spent many a holiday with my extended military family and inviting solo Sailors to join me for a meal rather than risk whatever may be served in the chow hall. One family opened their doors to me and served the most amazing Italian dinner. Forget the post-turkey sleepies. I had carb overload and was wishing I’d worn leggings that day. We laughed, ate, told stories, ate, laughed some more. It was one of the most memorable Thanksgivings I’ve ever had and there wasn’t a piece of fowl to be found.
The other stand-out Thanksgiving I have was while I was at boot camp. I was lucky enough to be able to be “adopted” out for the holiday due to how close it was to our graduation. My mother decided she would come and steal me away for the day and we would go eat in Chicago. Walking with her to the car, she started to act weird. Even weirder than usual. Turned out that getting off base for a meal wasn’t going to be the most exciting part of that day. She had snuck my now-ex up to Chicago with her to surprise me. He got out of the car and my knees went weak. I was crying and all I could say was, “I have mail for you in my pocket!” because I couldn’t even form a real thought! While we had reservations at a restaurant that was doing a traditional dinner, by the time we were wandering the city it didn’t sound so great. Instead, we ended up in a very pretty place where we could order family-style plates full of seafood, lobster bisque, and super soft rolls. We joked that lobster bisque should be a new Thanksgiving tradition after that. I still think that would be a good idea!
So, see? I know many of us hear “Thanksgiving” and picture wearing our Thursday best around a table with Pinterest-perfect place settings as our family all shares what they are thankful for that year. But maybe that table doesn’t need the traditional dinner. Maybe there is something more meaningful that would leave a lasting impression on your family members or those you open the door to for the holiday. Because I think that maybe the meal means a lot less than the people you are sharing it with.