While the idea of a holiday based around gratitude sounds good, Thanksgiving can be overwhelming—filled with full bellies and mixed emotions. When I was a little girl, Thanksgiving was always a delight: family getting together, eating food my mother and grandmother had painstakingly prepared. For me, the best part of Thanksgiving was going to the movies with my beloved grandfather and sister while my mom and grandmother cooked. I grew up during the era when people dressed up, and I remember my grandfather in a suit for the movies and, of course, for Thanksgiving dinner after. There was glamour around our table.
As I got older, the nostalgia of going home for Thanksgiving was sometimes outweighed by the inconvenience of getting home and my selfish desire as a college student was to have fun with friends more than to spend time with family. After college is when Thanksgiving became a little more complicated. I moved to Detroit, Michigan, and would spend Thanksgiving with my family there simply because I didn’t want to deal with holiday traffic and making the drive home. Once serious dating was in the mix, wondering if the guy and I were serious enough to spend Thanksgiving with each other’s families became another complication to consider. And, of course, if we didn’t spend the holiday together, hurt feelings and disappointment about the guy took my mind off what it should be on: a holiday about family and gratitude.
Once I was married, I knew I had a Thanksgiving companion. When our daughter came along, my husband and I tended to go to my grandmother’s house in Cleveland, Ohio. Thanksgiving as a grown up no longer meant a day of leisure at the movies while my grandmother and mother did the work. I became the one with the pans and ingredients and rolled-up sleeves. Years passed and Thanksgiving became—I hate to say—a bit of a chore.
After my grandmother and mother passed, my husband, daughter and I had to find new traditions. My husband’s extended family is very large (he was one of 13 kids), but most of them lived beyond driving distance away. So, our Thanksgiving became a tiny Thanksgiving, just the three of us around the dining table. One year, one of our nieces invited us to Thanksgiving with her husband, children, and in-laws in Chicago. Then that became our new tradition, and I was back on leisure duty as she did all the work and refused help.
When we lost my husband, Thanksgiving became a holiday of dread. My daughter describes us as “adrift at sea” as we tried to decide what to do for the holiday. And as I think about her and I trying to choose between just the two of us going out to dinner at a restaurant (that’s having Thanksgiving dinner), preparing a scaled-down version of Thanksgiving for ourselves, hoping to be invited by extended family, or ignoring the holiday altogether, I have realized something: Thanksgiving, even with all its good intentions, is a hard holiday for so many people.
If you’ve lost a loved one who was an integral part of the holiday, those feelings of grief are brought to the surface. If you’re married, do you go to your family’s or your spouse’s? If you host, do you even like to cook? Also, if you do host, you have to make sure your house is ready for guests and your food preparation is up to everyone’s standards and expectations. Maybe you’re trying to have kids, and you are dealing with infertility and dreading the questions that people will ask. Maybe you’re single and dreading the questions that will come with that. Maybe you have a dietary restriction that makes trying to figure out what you will be able to eat a challenge. Maybe you’ve moved to a new city and aren’t close enough with anyone to spend the holiday with them. Maybe you just don’t get along with your family.
Thanksgiving can be very difficult. I’m here to tell you, it’s been hard for me, and if I’m being honest, it’s still difficult even though my husband passed years ago. As the leaves start to turn signaling fall, there’s still a little bit of apprehension when I know Thanksgiving is coming. If you are struggling to be more excited about what to be grateful for and focusing more on what Thanksgiving 2022 will be like for you, consider this: be grateful that while you may be alone in your circle, you are not alone in the community of people throughout the Thanksgiving-celebrating world who aren’t as excited about it as it seems like they should be. You can be grateful for them, for a whole community of people you don’t know who feel the same as you do.
What are you grateful for as we approach Thanksgiving?
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Ashley Harrison says
I am thankful for the family and friends I have in my circle though I’ve been dreading the holiday season due to my mother’s passing a few months ago. This article was timely. Thank you👏🏿👏🏿
Lalitha LaShay Moore says
This touched me in so many ways. The holidays as a whole have left me broken and at times not wanting to celebrate. Family is no longer family and the holiday traditions that grew up loving just disappeared when my father and and grandmothers passed away. Thank you so much for sharing your story.
Brenda Jubilee says
Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.
Judith Chenevert says
Lisa Robertson says
I’m grateful for my family and friends but mostly my life that God is gracing me with to live each day. Your story is beautiful and touching. I wish you a bless and thankful Thanksgiving.
Blessings to you.
Mona Adams Winston says
I’m grateful for my memories of past Thanksgiving holidays with my Nana, my Mom & Dad together and apart, and my own family and extended family.
This year I will have dinner with my partner’s son as he travels to Mississippi from NYC. He will fry the turkey and make gourmet sides and a homemade pecan pie. I’m looking forward to helping him.
I am always grateful for family and friends. I am also grateful to God for health and strength. I remember those who have joined the ancestors and celebrate all who are still among us. Happy Thanksgiving
I’m grateful for my children and mine and there health and I’m grateful for my extended family ❤️
Just moved to N Texas to join Family. Mother here from LA at a young 92! Looking forward to Fam dinner and creating new memories 🍷❤️👏🏽
They call me MumMum. says
As with most of us, I am very thankful for my family. The circle of family has changed over the years. When I was a young, Thanksgiving included my extended family- Mom and Dad, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, and plenty of cousins. And the food was authentic! My mom made the best macaroni and cheese, and a favorite of mine- corn pudding! One of my aunts hosted. Her husband made rolls from scratch, made to melt in your mouth. There was always mounds of food to go with the turkey and ham…mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, cornbread, collard greens, candied yams, corn pudding, macaroni and cheese, green beans, cranberry sauce, salad, several kinds of pie. Everything was homemade. The only thing store bought was the butter! A tablecloth covered the table. The were real napkins and fancy silverware.
Over time, Thanksgiving changed more and more. Less people. Less food. Less homemade food. It is less fancy. I have to demand that we use real plates and real silverware! We still say the blessing over the food. But now my husband and I are part of the elders. There are so many “empty chairs” left by so many people we loved. But I am still so very grateful for the chairs that are filled with the other set of grandparents, our adult children, and our grandchildren. And though it’s not quite the same, I can use my smart phone or I pad to connect with my sisters, my brother, and other extended family.
So thank You, Lord, for all of Your blessings upon our family. You have blessed us with each other, our homes, the food upon which we feast, but most of all, I thank you for loving us so much that you sent Your Son, Jesus, to save us from our sins. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
I found me in this story. I grew up with large family gatherings. I went through some of the same experiences and now I am by myself. Being alone and feeling lonely, your article buoyed my spirit. Thank you 🙏🏽
LaVita Spentz says
Beautiful and it made me drift back to memories of my family. This holiday us always bitter sweet for me.