I had just thrown the stuffing mix and gravy into the shopping cart when he called.
“Hey love,” I answer.
“Joe’s not coming to Thanksgiving anymore,” he responds. I try to ignore the hint of disappointment in his voice. “His sister-in-law hasn’t had the baby yet, so it turns out Joe’s family is coming into town.”
I glance down at the bulging cart, trying to quickly assess how long it would take to put back a few items. In preparation for hosting our first Thanksgiving I’d decided on a mostly homemade menu with the exception of the pre-made stuffing, gravy and rolls. The only decision that hadn’t yet been made was the type of meat to purchase.
“Well, that’s okay,” I respond. “It will be perfect with just the two of us.”
“Yeah, I guess,” I remember him saying not too convincingly.
I thought back to a month earlier when we had cheerfully decided to protest the eight hour drive and holiday traffic by staying at home in Sacramento— free from turkey (which neither of us really liked anyway)— and a quiet night at home on the couch. No fights over which Christmas movie to watch. No stress over squeezing in multiple families over the course of 48 hours. And definitely no stomach aches from three straight days of Thanksgiving. Jonathan would get all the studying done he needed, and I’d relax from a season that had been filled with too many busy nights and weekends away. At one point, so confident in our alternative Thanksgiving plans, we even considered scrapping all tradition in exchange for a sushi dinner.
As the day drew nearer though, our holiday plans began to look like a bad idea. I remember the others in my office leaving earlier to beat traffic on the 5 freeway, while I plugged away on projects until the sun set. When I got home that night, we had the awkward conversation about how there was still time left to change our minds. We moped around the house until about 9pm before heading to the drive-in to see Four Christmases, a story of one couple who has to visit four different family members on Christmas Day. The movie hit a little too home. I watched the headlights on the highway as the credits played and though about all the holidays my family had spent driving from house to house. It was always so stressful, but it was tradition.
Of course, a year later, I look back on our holiday at home with fond memories. We bundled up that morning and biked to the starting line of Sacramento’s Run to Feed the Hungry where we then ran a 10K with thousands of strangers. We watched football together and ate tons of appetizers. We slaved over Cornish game hens, and as I’d imagined, we ate by candlelight. It was quiet and romantic, lonely and lovely. I don’t have a desire to spend Thanksgiving alone ever again, but, I’m so glad we made that memory together. Sometimes you need to be reminded of all that you have to understand the blessing. Tomorrow, we’ll be eating with both sides of our families for a combo holiday meal. I have never been so thankful.
photo credit to CarbonNYC