Tis the season for zero free time and a feast ’round every corner. Now, I am a creature of habit, so traditions are an idea that I can really get behind. I love how, every year, the agenda is relatively the same, but the details are subject to change on a whim. The framework of our turkey day festivities typically looks a little like this …
Thanksgiving Eve. 6:30 p.m.
We have a Friendsgiving with a group of Hank’s high school buddies. I was present the night the event was conceived. It was 2007-ish, before we were married. Before we had babies. Before the hangovers hung on for days. The bar scene On Thanksgiving Eve has always been such a trainwreck and we were just never into that noise. So, on that fateful pre-holiday evening, we went to Chuck’s instead. Let’s just say one of the guests slept with his head in a litter box that night and an annual event was born. These days, mini vans line the street outside Chuck’s suburban home and the only trip-inducing raves come from the little girls’ dance party upstairs. Things typically wind down by 10 o’clock (about the time they would start in our younger days) and the conversation is typically WTF (work, traumas, family).
Thanksgiving Morning, 7:45 a.m.
Three years ago, after noticing both of my siblings were signed up, I decided that I, too, would rise at the break of dawn and trot about with hundreds of my fellow townfolk at the Galloping Gobbler. It’s a 4-mile race that winds through a cemetery and I can tell you, that first year was rough. I remember starting out, at a stride even snailier than the 11-minute miles I log today, and my brother looked at me and said, “Is this really your pace?” I nodded, too winded to verbally confirm his inquiry, and he gave me a reassuring, “OK!” (Completely out of character for big Matt.) The course is serene but rolling. At the base of each and every hill, my brother would say, “Oh, this is the last big hill.” But it wasn’t. We reached at least 6 summits on that chilly November morning, but I did it. The next time, with Matt towering at my side again, I did it a little easier. And this year, with him and a few of our friends, I found myself feeling stronger, more capable and in a position to support other people. It’s such an invigorating start to a day that’s inevitably saturated with sugar and all that toxic, delicious temptation.
Thanksgiving Morning, 11:00 a.m.
After my go-to greasy breakfast sandwich from the golden arches, Matt drops me off at home. The chicks are always hanging out in their pjs eating donuts and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I pour a cup of hot coffee, take off my running shoes and settle in for some cuddles and lip sync performances from up-and-comers perched on floats with dancing gingerbread men and Smurfs. We shower and get ready at a leisurely pace with the dog show on in the background.
Thanksgiving Day, 1:00 pm.
The eating commences. My favorites include but are not limited to: Corn casserole, dinner rolls with cheese slices and turkey on them, deviled eggs and pecan pie.
Day After Thanksgiving, 12:00 p.m.
This is when we typically pull out the totes and start decking our halls. If we haven’t formally met, allow me to introduce myself here. I am not that woman who adorns her mantel with tasteful, elegant snowcapped trees and precise scalloped garland. I don’t discriminate against multicolored strands and I rarely discard a keepsake craft. Each year I pack away more than I unpacked at the start of the holiday. I live for glued-on Rudolph noses and worn trinkets with my babies’ names written on the back. If there’s a clear space, I’m gonna cover it. There’s going to be glitter on the walls and blow ups in the front yard and if you can’t handle it then I can’t handle you during Christmas, soooooo …
Saturday After Thanksgiving, 6:00 p.m.
If, for some ridiculous reason, you want to experience a truly voyeuristic glimpse into my life, The Lighting Ceremony would be it. Growing up my father was Clark W. Griswold. The art of exterior illumination was handed down to him and snowballed over the years into an intense, extensive Christmas display that earned my parents the title of “The Christmas House”. His holiday spirit isn’t quite as bright as it was in its prime, but my mom still bleeds red and green and sneezes tinsel. So, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, she sets the dining room table with the special holiday dishes she’s had since I can remember, cooks a feast that embarrasses the week’s earlier attempts and we flip the switch that sparks the official start of the season. We gather out front while Dad scurries around matching female ends to male ends and calling out for extension cords. We clap and cheer and critique and point out what’s better this year than last year. Then we get in our cars and drive by the house on the highway (they live along the interstate) so we can honk … at a house … where no one is because we’re all in our cars. Anyway, that’s what we do. And it always feels like every feeling I have for my family condensed into one magical night.
So, those are my traditions. They are the smells and tastes and faces that make my holiday so warm and sweet. They are part of what makes me who I am and the woven cloth of memories I’ll hand on to the girls. You know, these girls …