With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas just around the corner, I got to thinking today about the role traditions play in our lives, especially during the holidays. You see our family is BIG on holiday traditions. At Easter, everyone in our family gets a new bathing suit in their baskets. Fourth of July would not be a holiday without my husband lighting up the sky with his very own fireworks display. On Christmas Eve, our children (although all adults now) still bake and decorate cookies and open one present with a new pajama to wear on Christmas morning.
So when we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving a little differently this year, I psyched myself into thinking that it wouldn’t be a big deal. Cristina was going to spend her first Thanksgiving away from home, and because she was in town the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, I decided that we would just celebrate the holiday 5 days early. After all the date didn’t really matter, what was important was that we were going to be together.
On the day of our celebration, my youngest Michael started a protest. He decided that what we were “doing” wasn’t Thanksgiving at all so he gave the occasion a new name, Thanks Day. I laughed it off and started to cook our holiday meal. We actually incorporated new dishes on our menu (which came out delicious), but many of our staples or traditional dishes were just not cutting it for the Thanksgiving table. The mashed potatoes turned into a thick paste, the turkey tasted like uncooked sour oranges, the gravy was lumpy, and the stuffing looked like play-doh. Surprisingly, I remained cool and kept reminding myself that there was no reason to get upset about a few dishes turning out badly because what really mattered was that everyone was together.
What I didn’t know was that while we were cooking, the men could not locate our box of decorations for our Thanksgiving table. We all soon joined the search and the box was nowhere to be found. No traditional harvest angel napkin rings (made for me 15 years ago by my friend Ana Gomez), no platter for the turkey, no gravy boat. “It will be okay,” I told myself, “we will just have a simple table without our Thanksgiving decor.” And suddenly I came to a realization…this meant that we weren’t even going to have the cute little Pilgrim salt and pepper shakers that we purchased many years ago at Publix. You know which ones I’m talking about right? I started to panic and began opening every cabinet in my kitchen, searching every closet and box in my house for Mr. and Mrs. Pilgrim. There was no way I was going to continue this holiday without them! Seriously, I almost had a complete melt down. Now I know that this may sound funny to you, but knowing there wasn’t going to be a single traditional thing about this holiday was now starting to rattle me. And right before I was about to lose it, one of my kids recognizing the stress on my face, grabbed me and gave me a hug. So I took a deep breath, served our dinner, and proceeded to celebrate “Thanks Day.”
And although the food itself was sub-par, the company was just perfect. We decided as a family that instead going around the table and sharing one thing we were grateful for, we would all share something we were grateful about for EACH and EVERY person sitting at the table. And I’m going to be honest here; moments like this don’t come often. With growing children, new in-laws, and now even grandchildren in the picture, we have to make it a priority to create these moments when we are all together. The conversation we had that day as a family is one of the things I am most grateful to God for allowing me to experience this year. Jokes were told—“Remember that time you made me cry when I asked you to help me with my math homework? I’m not grateful for that.” Heartfelt and teary-eyed sentiments were shared—“Thank you dad for continually showing us what it means to have unwavering faith and hope in God.”
So it got me thinking. Had we had all of the distractions during our celebration in the form of our traditions, would we have made such an effort to tell each other how much we appreciated one another? Had the turkey and mashed potatoes turned out perfect, would we have spent more time talking about how much we were enjoying the food instead of how much we enjoyed and loved each other?
This year I am grateful for a not so perfect Thanksgiving. Grateful that God removed everything that made me comfortable, including our traditions, so that as a family we could all focus on what really does matter.