With Thanksgiving fast approaching, 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.
Last November I was a newly postpartum mom. My memories of my first Thanksgiving with a baby are blurry at best, which considering the little amount of sleep I was getting, is about right. Was the day any less magical? No. One memory I do have is putting together a set of clips I took on my DSLR capturing the day. Mostly I zeroed in on my fiancé Seth holding, playing with, and delighting over our daughter. I had gone all out, à la first-time mom at the holiday season, and purchased my three-month-old a special outfit for the day. While pulling out clothing to lend a friend recently I came across that dress. The gingham fabric, smocked pumpkins, and fussy collar reminded me of my first Thanksgiving as a mom, and my desires to make the day special.My parents did a beautiful job of instilling the magic of the holiday season. It didn’t matter if I came from a divorced home, or if money was sometimes tight, or if extended family lived states away, the holidays were special and important. As I grew older, went off to college, and established a life of my own, still, the presence of those important days stood like pillars in my year and were sometimes the only events I had to look forward to. While my twenties were an interpersonal disaster, I loved creating themed décor for Thanksgiving and Christmas. One year I hung up a hand cut banner that said “Give Thanks” across the popcorn ceilings of my Uptown apartment. No matter what, the celebration must go on. I now can look back with nostalgia and joy instead of remembering the sadness or hardship I was trying to escape in crafts, pie crust, or sweet potatoes.
I long for many things for my daughter. I have dreams for her as big as the sky. Lately, my heart’s desire is for her to remain as innocent as she is now forever. She has no fear, no worries, and no pain. Her world is safe, happy, and silly. She laughs easily and finds delight in simple pleasures like an empty paper towel roll or pulling a dish cloth off its spot. My life as her mother is such a contrast to the years I spent wondering if I would ever have children. She brings me indescribable joy. Like my parents, I hope and pray that holidays for her can be special. Can I keep things simple and meaningful? Can I keep the world at bay when it tries to commercialize every last detail? Can we still have our magic? I want to say “yes,” I choose to say “yes.”
Priscilla is just getting the knack for helping in the kitchen. She loves to hold onto a mini whisk and measuring spoons and sit in her highchair while I cook or bake. Last November, I wore her in a Solly baby wrap. I have no memories of spending the Wednesday before Thanksgiving at my mom’s preparing, but I bet I was there. Each year, no matter what, I’ve taken the day off of work before Thanksgiving to prep with Mom. It’s a bit of a tradition before the tradition and it has made all the difference with our exhaustion levels on Thursday. We usually start with pie crusts, then the actual pie fillings, I’ll chop all our ingredients for cornbread dressing, Mom will start her cranberry chutney, and I’ll mix up salted butter. Food prep aside, these have been some of my favorite life moments with my mom. We talk, visit, and work alongside each other in the kitchen, floating around one another like ghosts—used to and so accustom to one another’s movements and what we’re doing. I cannot wait for Priscilla to have her own memories of helping in the kitchen on Wednesday.
While food often gets the most attention on Thanksgiving, and the origins of the story we are telling in elementary school are dubious at best, I feel the true meaning behind the day lies in the moments and traditions we create with one another. Thanksgiving is turkey, pie, cornbread dressing, macaroni and cheese, cranberry chutney, salted butter, and rolls, but it’s also so many other things. It is the deep brown of my daughter’s eyes looking back at mine. It’s the wag of our dog Astro’s tail. It’s the draft of cold as someone you love walks in the kitchen door. It’s pressing linen napkins late at night to the sound of a podcast, because ironing is still a good idea. It’s the heaviness of Mom’s china that you pull down while precariously kneeling on the counter. It’s the softness of the hands you hold while you say a prayer. It is family, it is warmth, it is joy. All these things I hope Priscilla will come to appreciate. These moments, the magic, and this day matter.