Adele’s Two Cents: The Thanksgiving Orphans

NaBloPoMo DAY 26:

Growing up with nearly all of my family living within a five-mile radius of our apartment building was a mixed blessing: no matter the occasion, Christmas to christenings, anniversaries to Arbor Day, you knew exactly who was going to be on the guest list, jostling you at the _NIC6165cramped buffet table and beating you to the only bathroom. And even if it was your birthday celebration and you wanted to invite your friends, family trumped all and you knew exactly who was going to make the guest list.


Despite this predictable cast of characters, year after year, my mother always insisted on saying, “Well, it’s just us,” and she would then proceed to list each and every cousin and aunt and grandparent by name, as if I might otherwise be confused and think that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir would be joining us this year.

Today, families are far more geographically adventurous. I moved from New York to Colorado years ago, and my cast of family characters now lives in cities from Los Angeles to Boston, and Boca to Beijing. How then to celebrate the traditional family-centered holidays?

When I was new to Colorado and just starting out at a large law firm, another associate often invited the younger attorneys without local families to her home for Thanksgiving; she called us her “Thanksgiving Orphans.” Despite the somewhat pathetic label, we were glad to have a place to gather together, to share our potluck creations and to feast on a turkey the size of a Mini Cooper.

Later, after two children, our local “family” consisted of work friends, fellow soccer moms and baseball dads and their kids. We rotated houses and holidays, never exactly sure where we’d wind up or with whom we’d be sharing the table. But we were always surrounded by good friends and great warmth.

We’ve experienced a very kosher Thanksgiving (not a pat of butter to be seen!), one where our hostess didn’t even start the oven until we arrived (we had to suit ourselves with appetizers for over three hours!) and another when she’d apparently started cooking the turkey sometime during the Reagan administration (I’ve seen mummies with moister skin than that poor carcass!).

Frankly, I’ve yearned for the predictability of holidays with “just us” more than once. I’ve also yearned for my Puerto Rican family’s predictable menu: instead of turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes, my family celebrated every occasion with roast pork, yellow rice, black beans and fried plaintains. My kids once questioned this departure from the traditional offerings and I responded quite reasonably: “Did the Pilgrims land in San Juan? No Señor, so hush up and eat your pork!”

This year I’ll be spending a quiet Thanksgiving with my kids. Just us. I’ve given them control of the menu and I’m sure it will be delicious and relaxing and low calorie. Well, maybe two out of three.

So, are you a holiday “orphan” creating your own traditions? What are your Thanksgivings like?


Editor’s Note:  At last! NaBloPoMo is winding down. Yippee!

Today and everyday, I am thankful to be part of this amazing blogosphere. Through this Tangled Web of mine, I have met so many wonderful, thoughtful and supportive people. Here’s to you, and may you have a wonderful holiday season.

As always, thank you for reading–and for adding your own two cents!

17 thoughts on “Adele’s Two Cents: The Thanksgiving Orphans

  1. We’re sort of Thanksgiving orphans. We did create our own Thanksgiving at home with our girls for a while, because my husband and I grew up in South East Asia and then Australia – we didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving there. Now we have friends who invite us to their parents home and we have a lovely time. I always make dessert and it’s lively with lots of wine and chocolate. This is our third year celebrating together.
    I can’t wait to hand it over to my kids and watch them cook. I will take a nap and read a book while they do everything – I can already see it.

    • Careful what you wish for: my kids are in the kitchen right now, making everything, NOT the way I’d do it, and I’m sitting in the next room trying NOT to get in there and tell them how to do it MY way! Enjoy the desserts, wine and chocolate – what could go wrong with that combo?!

  2. I will have three thanksgivings. Traditional with #1 Son and his extended family. Desert with #2 Son and his new extended family. Then on Saturday, both sons, friends and others for a third at my house.

  3. We’re going to be “just us” about 20 -25 of us at my brother’s. For years I did it at the city house, but brother’s 4 boys are coming home from Germany, VA and New Orleans so, I know they’re over the moon excited to have everyone here.
    Adele’s best line? “Did the Pilgrims land in San Juan?” I’m still chuckling after having read it this morning. Happy Thanksgiving to all of the “just us” clan.

    • Sounds like a wonderful, “just us” get together. I hope it’s truly memorable for you all. Oh, and I know what you mean about Adele’s pilgrim line. I thought it pretty funny, too!

    • Wow, 20-25 family members celebrating in the same house! I hope you have plenty of turkey, good home owner’s insurance, and Dr. Phil on speed dial!

  4. Thanksgiving will be pretty low-key here. Lots to feast on, plenty of football, and — dare I admit it? — perhaps an afternoon nap! We always start the holiday with Mass — seems like a good way to give thanks, don’t you think?

    Happy Thanksgiving to all and Monica, hang in there, Doll, you’ve almost made it!!

  5. We don’t do thanksgiving here, so the Turkeys survive until Christmas.

    When I was young we had family quite close, these days people move about more, the only one I have close, other than the wife of course is my mother. She is less than 2 miles away.

    Christmas will be just the three of us at mums, I must remember my iPad for entertainment!!

    Have a great thanksgiving….

  6. My mother will cook a turkey (the size of a mini cooper) whether or not anybody comes. So of course we show up. There’s always room, so if someone brings a guest it’s not a big deal. Not really sure who can or can’t make it. Even living close that marriage – whose family gets which holiday- thing makes attendance unpredictable. Now with our children grown and having their own the “just us” combination gets even more dicey. My sister is hosting this year (she’s letting Mom cook the turkey – wise woman that she is.) It will be different and the same – just like always.

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