“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.
We started the tradition a few years ago of having our Thanksgiving dinner catered by Whole Foods…so you get the best of both worlds with eating food that someone else cooked at home. I don’t think I could ever go back to cooking a huge dinner!
the catered holiday is the absolute best ever. dishes are still in the oven all day so it feels very holiday-ish, but life is easier! guess whose idea that was!? I won’t go back either!
Great, great post. A LOT of undercurrents here, which made me not want the story to end!
I understand a lot of what you are saying, btw. In our house, neither my husband nor I love our families T-giving traditions, so we’ve created our own and it’s working for us. BUT if it was important to him, I’d suck it up and go along to make him happy.
indeed. we have both compromised. sometimes he does more, sometimes I give up more. you are right. that’s marriage. sigh.
Even the ordering the meal in is a big step toward corralling the chaos…both our families are all-home-made kind of families, right down to cubing the bread and peeling the potatoes, and I always shake my head at the mixes & quickies that are offered around the holidays, wondering how it can possibly be as good as the real thing. Ordering in gives you the best of both worlds, I guess. 🙂
It’s really interesting to hear your tradition of the meal out and the open weekend following. We’ve spent limited #s of holidays alone, without an all-day event involving uncles, aunts, cousins & siblings… I always find myself depressed at the end, without the crowds. But still, I wonder if there might not be a certain charm to what you’re describing. (Being able to write all day, undisturbed, because everybody else is busy! Wow!)
With our big families, I doubt I’ll ever find out. 🙂 LOL
I honestly think it’s just a personal comfort zone. my husband also hated spending holidays alone. I see the appeal of the big holiday deal too. we are all lucky if we have some options.
I love that you wove this around memories and traditions, your husband’s, your own and the compromise it takes to create “ours.”
if anyone knows compromise, it is I! thank you!
The post-divorce holiday letdown you spoke of touched me. I realized as I got older that I would never spend a holiday with both of my parents and my brother again. Regarding Mom and Dad, it is an either/or or neither, with me joining with my brother, my sister-in-law, and the kids. I always go where the kids are; I think I am trying to recapture youth and joy and Santa Claus through osmosis. Maybe it’s because I don’t have it anymore that I wish for it, but I have to say I am on hubby’s side. I’ll take the Griswolds (including Cousin Eddie) over Margo and Todd any day.
KF your old fashioned sensibility surprises me! I thought you were a brooklyn hipster at heart! 😉 I think having parents who wound up divorced really did make me prefer quiet, easy holidays as an adult. we have compromised tho… Hubby LOVES christmas vacation, and as funny as I find it–and I’ve seen it 100 times–it makes me cringe… xo
I love where you went with the prompt. I didn’t expect to be reading about Thanksgiving. Luckily my husband and I share the love of big, messy family holidays. Unfortunately, we usually spend them with his family as mine live 700 miles away. Holidays are great, but also a little depressing.
BTW, I’ve seen Christmas Vacation a million times and it never gets old. 🙂
thank you– I know. it’s one of our favorite traditions, to be honest– love chevy chase.
Well duh, my comment was totally ironic..I mean, I stuff my Tofurkey with PBR and light it on fire, roasting MARSHmellows (imported from the Everglades) made out of sawgrass and alligator dung on skewers fashioned out of pages from Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code (sealed in composted hipster hair grease to trap that all that mainstream flavor), chasing my Cheez-Whiz and Miracle Whip-pate on Saltine gnoshes (that’s right, the g’s silent) with mulled Chuck Shaw wine. All the while watching the new Troma Criterion Collection on my iPad. Totally, that’s my Thanksgiving–which is so lame anyway…
It sounds as if your husband is from “over the river and throught the woods.” Certainly goes with a traditional thanksgiving. Try singing that on the next trip up.
My husband is like yours, very big on Thanksgiving. We drive 6 hours (each way) to go to his Grandma’s house each year to celebrate with his family. For me, I’m not that into it but I go for him (and because it’s some of the best cooking ever).