With Thanksgiving fast approaching (today!), we asked several of our writers to tell us about their favorite Thanksgiving traditions and stories. Whether a quiet affair at home, or a boisterous congregation of friends and extended family, the richness of gathering with loved ones unites us all in this harvest season.
I’m 32 years old and I don’t think there are enough words to express my gratitude to my mom who did it all Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving. Maybe you know a mom like that too. Maybe you are that mom.
That mom who literally does it all. From the place settings, to the unparalleled holiday decor. From the turkey to the pumpkin pie. Sometimes with the “help” of little hands, sometimes while her three little minions likely duked it out on the side. Feeding us from the time we were picky little eaters, all the way through hungover college years (sorry). I’m sure we said thank you and gave our compliments to the chef, but that hardly seems enough for all the effort that went into each and every year.
We moved to Minnesota when I was three. From the time that I can remember, we have lived away from our extended family, our closest relatives near Chicago. That meant my parents were in charge of it all. If Thanksgiving was to be in Minnesota, it was to be at our house and tackled without the help of an extended tribe. Sure we would have grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. visit for the holidays. But it still left my mom in charge of EVERYTHING, usually with the added
stress bonus of entertaining visitors.
My mom nailed it every year, as far as I can remember. Despite the chaos I imagine three kids causing, she always had the timing just right. The smell of turkey was always to die for, and the stuffing, mashed potatoes and other sides were just how everyone loved them (even if some were simply from a box or a can). The champagne was poured, a prayer was said, and we all enjoyed another Thanksgiving dinner à la Mary. I never gave much thought as to how my mom pulled off this carefully orchestrated feast year after year without losing her dang mind, until I became a mom myself two years ago.
Since becoming a mom, I’ve realized just how lucky we are to have our parents and (most) of our siblings nearby. This tribe of ours is irreplaceable everyday, but especially on the holidays. We hosted our first extended-family Thanksgiving in 2017 when my daughter was four months old, and I can’t imagine tackling it all like my mom used to, at least not while keeping such composure. We took the opportunity to shake things up a bit for Thanksgivings moving forward. I took a page out of my mom’s book and did my best to set a festive table, but the rest was handled a bit differently. Potluck style.
Yup, having our family nearby meant that I could delegate, delegate, delegate. I handled the big items; the turkey, gravy, and a side or two. Everyone else took care of the rest. Easy-peasy. We obviously realized what a better system this was, rather than dumping all the responsibility on one person year after year. So, although it took us 30-some years to get here, we are now all old enough, and capable enough, to rotate hosting Thanksgiving so long as it’s with the help of our tribe.
Cheers to You
So, to all of you mamas out there doing it on your own. I see you. And even if there’s no one to give you that pat on the back, glass of champagne, and “well done” you deserve, your efforts aren’t going unnoticed. It just may take your kids a few years to really understand all that it is you do and articulate their thanks accordingly.
And to my mom…. I’m sorry it took us 30 years and our own selfish motives to change things up, but I sure am thankful for all that you did year after year, to make Thanksgiving memories that will last a lifetime. If we’re lucky, we’ll be spending the next 30 years trying to do it almost as good as you. Love you, Mom.