“I miss my childhood,” my husband says as we drive the two hours upstate to his family’s house. He is describing his memories of growing up in rural Hudson Valley, with the occasional bear in the yard, extended family living no further than a few houses away.
I nod and “mm-hmm” a lot, lower the volume on the radio to show my husband I am listening, but I have already heard these stories. He describes the holiday meals and traditions that have fed his own obsession with Thanksgiving. By now I am well acquainted with his fanaticism around all-things-Thanksgiving. We always have Thanksgiving at our house. Always, so don’t ask again, okay? Regardless of the number of guests we are hosting, we have food to feed no fewer than 20 people. For a month. And these people should really like pie.
I check that our three children are still napping in their carseats. It is early summer and we are heading up for swimming and barbecue. There will be a lot of messy food, half-inflated pool toys and never enough napkins to do the job.
My own Thanksgiving tradition as an adult, after my parents’ divorce, was meeting my father at a midtown restaurant. I didn’t mind it. I liked the easy, sophisticated feeling of holiday dinner at a restaurant. When you live with parents who end up divorced, chances are holidays were never such a blast to begin with. I’m just guessing. I loved the special holiday menus, the wine, the cold night air that hit my face when we left the warmth of the restaurant, saying good bye to my dad at the subway entrance. I liked heading home alone in a cab, the city streets empty, the long holiday weekend in front of me. Thanksgiving felt solitary and open.
I tried to keep this tradition of restaurant Thanksgivings with my husband, once my father moved to Florida and remarried. We went out to dinner one year and my husband proclaimed it was the most depressing holiday he’d ever spent. We brought our elderly neighbor a piece of pie. I thought it was a great success. (We have some issues.) This was years ago and before kids. All Thanksgivings since have been almost identical: turkey, sides and pies from Fresh Direct, family and friends who are in town, wine, tv, kids in pajamas. There is a place for everyone.
We have lived in five New York City apartments since our last restaurant Thanksgiving. The settings change but the traditions grow roots. Could I go back to eating turkey dinner at a local establishment, having nothing to clean up but the kids? I could. We won’t. But for the record, I could.
The kids wake as we exit the Thruway. Almost there. My husband smiles as we pass McDonalds and turn onto the rural route his house is on. He is lit with his memories. Mine are hidden. It is not a bad thing.
RemembeRED is a memoir meme. This post is a response to a writing prompt.