Thanksgiving: When You’re Away from Home or All Alone
My earliest memories of Thanksgiving include preschool art projects of making dough ball turkeys to decorate the dinner table & tracing my hand on paper to make the 4 finger feathers & thumb neck turkeys we all made as kids. I was so proud of my artwork & my mom still has it packed away in her attic almost 40 years later.
I also remember going to my grandparents’ house for a family dinner. Everything was homemade – the bread, veggies from the garden, delicious lumpy mashed potatoes & gravy, fruit salad & strawberry ice cream. Grandpa always carved the turkey at the table with an electric knife & I was worried he would cut his fingers off. Then after dessert, my sister & would break the wishbone. I don’t remember who won their wish year after year but it was so much fun!
When grandma & grandpa got older, our holiday dinner moved to my parents’ home with my mom doing all the cooking. She switched from mashed potatoes to “funeral potatoes“- a dish that got its name because in our faith you always made them & took them to the grieving family. They are the best, most yummy potatoes ever & are still a staple in my mom’s holiday meals. I stuff my guts to the brim when I get to have them!
Once my grandpa was gone, my sister & her family moved up north, my parents moved to be close to their grand kids – it was just grandma & me. I would go to her assisted living home & visit with her before dinner. Then we would take our place in the dining room to enjoy our meal & give thanks for all of our blessings. It always amazed me that so many of the residents there were alone on this holiday. Grandma & I would go around & chat with the lonely residents to let them know they weren’t forgotten. We made sure they all had smiles on their faces before we moved to the next table.
When grandma joined grandpa in Heaven I needed to figure out another plan for my Thanksgiving holiday. My husband at the time & his family were drag racers & the NHRA would host a huge Thanksgiving dinner at the Las Vegas race track where every race team participated in a progressive dinner. You would go from pit to pit, visiting, eating & wishing each other good luck in the next day’s races. I was able to go to this event one year because I took vacation time. All the other years I was on my own. I had lots of fun that year but was very lonely the other years. Calling my family to wish them a happy Thanksgiving always ended with me in tears, missing them so much.
One Thanksgiving, I joined my friend & his mom at Marie Callender’s for our meal. It was something new & we had a great time. But, I was still sad in my heart because it’s just not the same as being with your family. I was grateful they had invited me to join them & I so enjoyed their company but the evening call to my family ended the same way as the previous years – in tears.
When I divorced, I found myself again figuring out what to do on Thanksgiving. I am blessed to have wonderful friends who asked me to their home for dinner. For them, Thanksgiving starts the day before with prepping the food, playing board games & watching movies as a family. I went over on Wednesday night & they asked me to use my embalming skills to stitch up the “turducken” they made. I was so honored! I put the sweetest baseball stitch on those birds, everyone was taking pictures & marveling at how handy it was to have a mortician to Thanksgiving dinner! I felt like I’d found my holiday home & we did the same thing the next year.
This year, I was able to take vacation time the week before Thanksgiving. It will be my first holiday with my family in over 10 years – I’m so excited! I will fly up with my skateboard as my carry-on item so I can skate with my nieces & nephew. We will play video games, go shopping, cook & enjoy being together as a family. My brother-in-law is battling stage 4 cancer so we will make this holiday especially good for him, making his favorite chocolate treats for dessert. Did I mention dinner will be a day early because I have to fly home on Thanksgiving day? That is how amazing my family is – they are willing to change the date just so I can be there with them! I am truly blessed & can’t wait for the day I take off. Once I’m back in So Cal, I will join my friends for another wonderful turducken dinner, games & movies. I’m going to be stuffed to the gills after 2 full Thanksgiving dinners!
Knowing that I will be doubly blessed this year makes me think of those who won’t be. How can I help them? My plan is to donate food & money to the various charities & organizations in my community that help those in need. They won’t know me or what I’m doing to help but they will have a warm meal on this wonderful holiday- that is what makes me happy. Please, if you can help the less fortunate find a reason to be thankful this year then do it. You will be so glad you did & you will be blessed for your kindness.
What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving memories? What are your most enjoyable traditions? Are you helping those who need it? I can’t wait to hear from you!