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 cramped 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!