It's my favorite holiday of the year. And not just for the food!
I was raised not celebrating Christmas. My dad's religious upbringing (prohibiting all holidays) combined with his bitterness toward the church ruled out all of that. No gift-giving (buying into commercialization), no tree or fancy dinner or awkward, organized circle of obligatory thank-yous while inwardly rolling your eyes at the latest present.
Instead, we made a big deal out of New Year's Eve and of Thanksgiving. New Year's Eve we spent as a family - just the four of us, laughing and watching movies and exchanging tokens of appreciation in an entertaining way. (The tales of the 'treasure hunts' Dad concocted will have to be saved for another day.) But Thanksgiving was something to be celebrated with all.
Some of my earliest Thanksgiving meals are at my Aunt Tammy's house. Not only did they include her, her children, and their spouses, but our family, Tammy's coworkers, and anyone she came across who didn't have Thanksgiving plans. We put together puzzles while the ladies slaved away in the kitchen and Shawn made his famous peanut-butter balls at the dining table. I played the piano while Amy took pictures of everyone chatting on the couch. The cousins played Risk in the spare bedroom, and I don't think I ever won.
All my Thanksgiving memories are special. They're about bonding with family. They're about deciding to take a nap after dinner, and crashing on the top bunk of your younger cousin's bunkbed, while an older cousin takes the bottom bunk. They're about Ben's "bumblebee buzzing out of the barn, with a great big ham sandwich under his arm" tickle attacks. They're about setting aside your diet plans for a day because Christie's eye-mouth tart is DIVINE. They're about people, and caring, and being important, and love.
Thanksgiving is all about love.
It's about love to me. And that's why it's so special.
In the last four years, since I moved down here, I haven't been able to spend a Thanksgiving with my family. The first year, Kyle and I went to the mid-afternoon Thanksgiving meal offered by ASU's off-campus student services office. The experience was sterile and weird (checking in and having someone cross your name off a list so you can enjoy some turkey and mashed potatoes), but it was still Thanksgiving, because I shared that experience with someone I loved. Year two, Kyle was deployed. I spent the day at Sandra's house with her family and felt right at home, because I was surrounded by love. And also puzzles. Year three, Kyle and I did a crazy, disjointed Thanksgiving dinner on our own, at my condo that I had just moved into that morning. But even though we ate in courses (the casserole pan had to be washed between cooking the green bean casserole and the carrots), the experience was full of love. Last year, Mark and I went over to Kris's house for Thanksgiving dinner. Again, an experience smothered in love. Slow-dancing in the living room with my date, knowing my bff had slaved over three pies just so Thanksgiving could be everything she thought I'd want it to be.
Tomorrow, I'm spending Thanksgiving with another family I love. Michael always has something beautiful and nice to say when he sees me. Syd is one of the greatest women I know down here. I am blessed to call them friends, and to share in the love in yet another slightly-dysfunctional Thanksgiving.