The Reality of Grown-Up Thanksgiving

image source: ProFlowers, Creative Commons
image source: ProFlowers, Creative Commons

I am a sucker for family traditions and all their trappings.

I love the holidays. I have a big family (three sides due to three parents, one departed) and Nick’s is even bigger (four)! The organized chaos of kids, parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents milling about, collaborating in the kitchen, and catching up on the latest in each others lives makes my heart happy.

Growing up, my family switched back and forth between going to my mom’s parents and dad’s parents for each big holiday. We would have Thanksgiving at one, than Christmas at the other. It was a dependable pattern, and there was comfort in that. Then my Dad’s parents retired and moved south to North Carolina, and my Mom’s father was diagnosed with ALS. This shifted our pattern, and we spent more Thanksgivings with my maternal family, but if it is possible, our holidays as a family became sweeter.

We savored our times together more. I became more intentional about talking with my grandparents and asking them questions, making sure to carefully file away their answers for future recollection. My Grandaddy’s diagnosis was a reminder that these gatherings and memories were limited. We only had five Thanksgivings together between the time of Grandaddy’s diagnosis and the year he died, but I recall them as some of the richest family memories we made.

For the last four years, my holidays as an engaged and then married adult have become far more complicated. We have to figure out how to share two holidays between approximately seven families. (Try to do the math, and you will see that it is impossible.) Four years into marriage, we are still trying to figure out this balance within the new family we have created. We try to follow the pattern of one Thanksgiving at home in Hoboken, one with my immediate family in Philly, and one with Nick’s family in Pittsburgh… which means we are always missing out on being somewhere else.

I admit, I am sufferer of FOMO – the nagging Fear of Missing Out. I want to be everywhere, with all the people I love, all the time. The idea of my family sharing Thanksgiving without me makes my heart ache. Every year at this time, I have to remind myself that marriage and becoming your own family unit takes sacrifice and compromise. It means finding a balance in how you spend your holidays and your time.

This year, my immediate family will be spread throughout New Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia, and California as they have various work obligations to meet. Nick and I will be staying home in Hoboken and hosting a few members of his family at our place. It is the first time we are hosting a family holiday in our tiny apartment home, and as much as I will miss my family, I am excited about that.

We get to host! We are in charge of the menu! Setting the tone and ambiance of the day is up to us. We decide when dinner is served. My incredible chef husband gets to proudly show off his turkey cooking skills, and we have the privilege of executing a fancy meal for others that we planned all on our own. Because we are real, live grown ups.

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for our little two person family and what we are building together. Figuring out how to build your own family is not always easy or picturesque, but what we are creating is worthwhile. How we choose to spend our holidays now will set the scene for the memories we look back on years from now, and the stories we are writing together, and the tales we will tell our kids.

How do you make your adult holiday celebrations your own? What traditions have you carried on or begun?

8 thoughts on “The Reality of Grown-Up Thanksgiving

  1. I feel the same way about holidays, because my family is spread across the US (well, me here in Jersey, my sister in Dallas, my brother in Houston, my Mom in Detroit, and my Dad and the rest of my family in Northern Michigan). Christmas is the hardest for me, because I want everyone together in one place…which rarely happens! And since I only get to see my family once or twice a year, it’s so hard to not be with all of them. Being an adult is rough! 🙂

    1. I feel you Danielle! It’s so hard to be away from people you love so much. I’m trying to remember now to savor every moment with them before I head home for Christmas.

  2. That’s wonderful and very grown up that you are hosting this year. I’ve spent many holidays apart from my family but only hosted one Christmas dinner for my parents.
    When I moved to NJ I made a conscious decision to continue the holiday celebrations I grew up with, as best I could, and invite friends to join me. We’ve made pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, decorated Christmas trees, roasted Easter lamb, set fire to dessert and pulled crackers at Christmas dinner.
    I miss spending Christmas Eve with my family, watching my nephews put out their stockings, but until Ryan’s job changes we will always be here for Christmas. We’ve created some of our own Christmas traditions that strengthen each year.

    1. I loved getting to pull crackers at Christmas brunch with you a few years ago. Such a fun tradition I had no idea existed! Thank you for looping us in on some of your traditions 🙂

  3. The only real “tradition” that’s carried-on in my family has been my grandma’s “corn pudding”, which is really just a baked corn and egg casserole-type dish. So good! (Missed it last year, though, because I had dinner at a friend’s house…)

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