With the holidays fast approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about past family traditions as well as new traditions that have formed and are forming. For as long as I can remember, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday — not just because of the food, but because there are absolutely zero expectations (other than eating more in one sitting than we typically eat on a regular day!). It is obvious that most holidays have become another reason to buy something for someone, and don’t get me started on how early in the year you start to see Christmas decorations these days. We seem to have lost the meaning of most holidays, but that is a discussion for another day.
For me and my family, this holiday has always been one of bringing the family, both near and far, together for several days to catch up, and served as a yearly family reunion. Thanksgiving created cohesiveness in our family and provided me with a sense of comfort. I am a creature of habit and it felt good to know that I could depend on this holiday to bring the whole family together year after year.
Although it began long before 1992, that is the year that I can vividly remember marking the start of a new family tradition — Thanksgiving at my parent’s house. Some arrived on Wednesday, others would drive in the morning of, and many would stay spread out through the house on air mattresses and makeshift beds, truly bringing the family together. We played golf in the backyard, swam in the pool (oh yeah, Florida Fall, y’all!), played hide and seek, walked downtown to see the Nights of Lights and so much more. Friends who didn’t have family nearby felt welcome at our home, and we welcomed them with open arms. Some of my best memories stem from annual turkey fries and card games. We laughed until we cried and stayed up past our bedtimes. It was THE BEST!
As ‘the cousins’ grew into parents themselves, so did the size of our party. Until one year, one of the families decided to stay home in South Florida because it had become too hard to travel with the kids. Then the next year some of our northern families had to stay north due to work obligations. A few years later some of the cousins decided they wanted to form their own tradition at home. And I realized that maybe I did have expectations, after all. Maybe I had grown so used to having everyone together that it saddened me beyond belief to see the size of our annual reunion dwindle. So for me, to see everyone starting to create their own traditions away from my family’s home, in a way felt really strange.
Figuring Out a Way to Connect
I have always loved bringing people together, which proved true with Thanksgiving. One year I decided that our Thanksgiving had grown so large that we needed a website — one where I could list the foods everyone was bringing so that we could make sure we had all the fixins’ and not too much or too little of any one thing. The home page played Jack Johnson’s ‘Better Together’ while a family could see the guest list and choose what they’d contribute to the dinner table.
It has taken a few years to get used to our table size shrinking … I think the largest Thanksgiving we hosted had 62 people. Don’t get me wrong, we still don’t have less than 20 each year, but I miss it. I miss having that yearly opportunity to connect with everyone who stays in their home towns now.
But I get it.
As a mom of two and a small business owner, I KNOW it is hard to travel with littles and step away from your work. This year will mark a new twist in the traditions as the first year that the matriarch of our family, my dad’s mom, won’t be in attendance and dinner will be in a new home for my parents.
So here I am, adapting and open-minded to creating new traditions. Family means everything to me, and I am thankful for everyone I’ll be able to hug in person, and will be able to catch up with everyone else via FaceTime and over the phone. As I feel all the feels with the plot twists in life, I find comfort in knowing my family is just a phone call away and will hold on to every single memory and picture over the years … and that feels good.