This year, I wanted Thanksgiving to be simple. I wanted to pick up Chinese take out (I have it on excellent authority that Chinese restaurants are always open on Thanksgiving and Christmas), sit back with some chopsticks, and watch television with my kids. At the very most, I thought maybe I'd roast a chicken with sliced of garlic nestled under the skin, an orange and a lemon in the body cavity. Maybe I'd serve it with green been casserole because we all know that's what REALLY makes the holiday table. I even thought that adorable Pillsbury dough creature might make an appearance ala crescent rolls.
I had hoped, anyway.
My daughter had different ideas. One of them would have been all for pizza. The other one, the one who's sentimental like me, wouldn't hear of it. Maybe it's because I grew up overseas and we had to make a point of having Thanksgiving in countries that didn't celebrate it. Or maybe it's because turkey is not so easy to find in other places like it is here, but Thanksgiving was always done up. It's part of my memories, who I am.
Keep in mind, I've never liked Thanksgiving food. I didn't like going around the table and everyone announcing what they're thankful for either. In theory, I like the deliberate reminder of gratitude and recognition of blessing, I've just never liked announcing it. It feels too Hallmark to me
Despite all that, I took something away from those dinners. I took belonging, love, community, and those hours where everyone put their personal drama aside to sit down and laugh with each other. That when it all came down to it, we were family (even when there were strangers at the table) and family sticks together.
How can I take that away from my daughters before those memories ever become memories? These kids have been through family drama like nothing else. They've been picked up and moved so many times that they have to work at making friends, pushing through their fear that next year, they'll leave them behind and have to form new attachments. They've weathered through judgmental extended family, homelessness, and a neglectful father who is more about appearing to be a good dad, than actually being one.
The three of us have been through hell and back, together. We're tight. We laugh with each other constantly, build each other up, set up our own traditions within the scope of our interests, and defend each other to the outside world, even when it seems fruitless. We're fighters. We love fiercely and speak frankly. Our home is a safe harbor where you can screw up anywhere else in your life and know that even if the other two don't agree with what you did, you still have a place to go where people love you. No matter what.
I learned some of my parenting from traditions like Thanksgiving. The rest of the family doesn't know it, but I do. So when my daughter asks for tradition, how can I possibly deny teaching her the most important lesson of all: Family is forever.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.