A Thanksgiving Wish by Jessica Nottingham

Jessica Nottingham

For some, Thanksgiving is a time to gather and celebrate with family and appreciate the memories that come with it: the oven heating up the kitchen starting in the early morning; little feet pattering down the hallway toward the kitchen to be enveloped in the wonderful smell of baking rolls; sword fighting with siblings using forks over the last bit of green bean casserole; and most importantly, sharing with family what they’re thankful for.

However, for others, Thanksgiving has morphed into something different. Exciting career opportunities across the country, losing a family member, and other myriad reasons have placed some folks in a situation where they would otherwise spend Thanksgiving alone. It’s in this time that we can remember that sometimes, family is what you make it. A gathering of friends (some call it “Friendsgiving”), a quiet dinner alone, or a friend reaching out to invite you to their family gathering; these and more are ways that you can celebrate in your own way, perhaps forging your own tradition.

When I was in my teens, my older brother moved from southwest Missouri to upstate New York. It was a big move for him as a 20-year-old living on his own, in a time when Zoom and Facetime didn’t yet exist. Thanksgiving would be his first holiday on his own, and homesickness was in full swing. My parents made the decision to travel up to New York to visit him for Thanksgiving; however, someone needed to stay behind to care for the pets, and stay in the house. I volunteered, knowing that my brother needed my parents more at that moment than I did. 

This would be my first holiday on my own.

Granted, my situation was not dire by any means; as a 17-year-old introvert, a chance to have a practice run of what would eventually become normal was exciting to me. I spent the day watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, enjoying a frozen dinner made of turkey, dressing, potatoes, and green beans, and loved every minute of it – in spite of its modestness, it was my dress rehearsal of adulthood. Though my parents felt guilt for leaving me behind, as though they’d done the unthinkable and chosen between their children, I couldn’t have been happier. (Could I have thrown a party without them knowing? The thought hadn’t occurred to me; I was a responsible child. And, as mentioned, an introvert.) That tradition continued – each Thanksgiving was spent alone while my college roommates went to their respective homes for the holiday. A frozen turkey dinner and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade had become my own silly inside joke. 

Now, as a 30-something married adult, the tradition has changed. The parade is still on the television every year. My husband, Sam, is a fantastic cook and takes pride in perfecting the turkey every year. His mother, Mary, brings over her green bean casserole, which is usually the first to be gobbled up. And I take the helm of making appetizers, side dishes, desserts, and drinks. It’s a departure from my childhood, watching my mother plan for weeks and spend the entire day in the hot kitchen; instead, my husband and I have perfected the dance of swapping places and taking breaks, in time to enjoy dinner with the three of us. Our corgi and pug even have their own version of a Thanksgiving dinner. 

But most importantly, our door is always open for anyone to come over when they don’t have anywhere to go for the holiday. We believe that family is also what you make it – relatives or otherwise. It’s a way to enjoy each other, and perhaps give someone else a reason to be thankful, even if sometimes you’re not feeling that way yourself.

It’s easy to retreat into your own mind when the holidays are far more cheerful and thankful than you feel – but this time is more important than ever to lean on your friends, your own-made family, and relatives near and far. Cherish the family you have, even if they aren’t the family that you grew up with. 

From the APlus Family to yours, we hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving holiday filled with wonderful food and memories.

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