At different times in my life, Thanksgiving has been different things, but it has always meant family.
Through most of my life before high school, Thanksgiving revolved around my father’s mother, Grandma Mom, especially since Mom’s family was all a day and a half’s drive away—too far for most holidays. Sometimes my mother would host, or my Aunt G, or one of my Uncle D’s daughters. Thanksgiving was a holiday filled with extended relations, cousins I only saw a couple times a year, from all three of my father’s siblings. As my father was the youngest in his family and he was 50 when I was born, there had been plenty of time for the extended family to grow rather large. After Grandma Mom’s death, however, the various branches of the family went their separate ways. Since Dad died soon after Grandma Mom, we had less and less of a connection with his family, but Aunt G and her large family always welcomed us. For quite a few years we had Thanksgiving and/or Christmas with them, and very much appreciated being part of their family. We haven't had Thanksgiving with them for several years now, but the years we did have were good ones.
One year, my mom’s family rented cabins at a state park and we had Thanksgiving with them. Usually we saw them over the summer at a family reunion, but that year the reunion was cancelled for a cousin's wedding, so we also did Thanksgiving. One year during graduate school, we had Thanksgiving with my then-girlfriend’s family and had a very nice time and a particularly excellent turkey.
Since I started dating--and then married--Lauren, we've melded our families pretty thoroughly for the holidays. My mom doesn't have any really strong ties (at least not ones that are geographically convenient for her!), so it's been easy enough for me and Lauren to combine our families for the holidays. This year, even though Lauren's brother is married, we have him and his wife at my mom's along with my other in-laws for Thanksgiving, and it's so nice that we do.
Combining families has meant some compromises from both sides. The menu selection is the easiest, because it's almost wholly additive--the more the merrier! The biggest difference has been the timing of the meal. No matter which of my own relatives we had Thanksgiving dinner with in the past, we’ve always had the main meal at or around noon. That’s just how the rhythm of things works. We spend all morning getting food ready, then we have a big feast, then we spend the afternoon sleeping, watching football, playing cards, or playing other games until supper rolls around and we pick away at the leftover before going our separate ways. It’s a nice system for minimizing the leftovers, and it’s always worked for us.
My in-laws, though, don’t eat their Thanksgiving feast until 5 o’clock. For them, “dinner” denotes a late meal, while in my family, the word simply means “the big meal of the day.” Thus, you could come home after church to have “Sunday dinner,” because supper would be a smaller meal. They typically have a late-morning brunch, then perhaps snack a bit, and finally eat the big meal late in the day.
Still, if that's the biggest obstacle we have to overcome, we'll be just fine, and for that I'm thankful. I'm thankful for all of our family members, both human and canine, but especially for our daughter who has her first Thanksgiving today. In a world where in-laws are commonly understood to be problematic, I'm thankful for the wonderful in-laws I have. And, of course, I'm thankful for my mother, who has been with me at every Thanksgiving except one.
And I'm thankful for you, dear reader. Thank you for stopping by--I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving!