Creating New Thanksgiving Traditions

Creating Thanksgiving TraditionsAs we approach the Thanksgiving holiday social media is a constant feed of traditional foods, stories of family tradition dating back to ‘as long as I can remember’, and reminders of open spaces at our tables. As a proud Jewish American family, Thanksgiving figured prominently when I was growing up. It was a time for family and close friends to gather at my grandparent’s house. And there were always new faces ever year, young people who were away from home. Strangers, one would say. But in my grandparent’s home, no one was a stranger. These were my Thanksgiving traditions.

There was no separate kids’ table. Everyone sat together. Formal dining table next to however many folding tables and chairs were needed. The good china and crystal gleamed on the table, for kids and adults alike. The kitchen table was overflowing with desserts of all types. Traditional Pumpkin Pie, check. Sweet Potato Pie, got that too. Cookies, there was a wide assortment. Candies and chocolates, both store-bought and homemade were carefully displayed on beautiful trays. My  grandma was an entertainment goddess. Didn’t matter if there were 10 or 300 (her biggest Passover Seder had over 300!), she made it look so effortless and made everyone feel welcome.

My grandma passed away in 2013. She was in the hospital on Thanksgiving of that year. I had begun prepping the night before, not knowing my grandmother wasn’t feeling well. On Thanksgiving morning, as I was organizing my cooking schedule I got a call telling me my grandma was in the hospital. You don’t simply drop a list-full of food and hope it magically is prepared when you return. Honestly, I don’t even know what we did for Thanksgiving dinner that year. All I remember is being at the hospital, talking to doctors about final plans, making decisions I didn’t want to make, and hoping that I wouldn’t be saying my final good-byes that day.

Thanksgiving 2014 came along, not quite a year after my Bubbe died. I wasn’t in the mood to make a big dinner and spend my entire day in the kitchen. There wasn’t going to be a house full of people. Maybe years ago, but not that year. There would be 5 of us because Grandpa Tommy was not close enough to join our family gatherings.

Long ago, when it was just CycleGuy and me, we decided to have Thanksgiving dinner at a local resort. It was more of a way not to hurt anyone’s feelings because back then, in our early 20s, we were a young couple and had been invited to various homes for the holiday. Rather than having to choose, we had dinner by ourselves then made the rounds to our friends’ homes to laugh, have dessert, play games, and, of course watch sports on TV.

In 2014, I felt like the tradition of a big family gathering wasn’t much of a tradition. I would spend two days cooking and many more cleaning, for what would be a fancy, but still not-too-long dinner. BabyGirl didn’t have expectations of any specific experience. For her, really, it was just another day. Her traditions were more connected to the morning hike with her dad and an evening of playing games and eating dessert. It didn’t help that my last Thanksgiving memory was filled with beeping machines and the smell of industrial cleaners.

CycleGuy suggested we go out for Thanksgiving. I can’t even tell you if anyone had invited us over, because I don’t remember. Thanksgiving 2014 was the first year my whole family was gone. No grandparents, no mom, no uncle. Of course I had CycleGuy and BabyGirl, AuntZoni and Grandpa Tommy. But if all the family you grew up with is gone, you understand. I hope you don’t, though.

This year we’re going out for Thanksgiving. It’s become our tradition. I make a few things, those favorites you want as leftovers. But instead of spending days in the kitchen we spend time together. There is the annual Daddy/Daughter hike, followed by the cajoling to practice violin. (Music moms, you know my pain!) We talk, we look at ads, we watch parades on TV. I cook and bake at leisure, knowing that dinner is going to be ready when we are.

I was talking with a friend, recently, about Thanksgiving traditions and mentioned that I wonder if our going out to dinner will leave BabyGirl feeling empty when she’s away at college and friends talk about their family Thanksgiving traditions. Will she feel like she missed out on a house full of people eating, talking, laughing? Will she feel like her experience of getting dressed up and going to a resort make her not fit in? I started wondering about the traditions I’m creating for her. My friend didn’t really offer much, other than to say that traditions are what you make of them. Some people’s big family Thanksgiving isn’t really a fond memory. A tradition. A memory. But not necessarily good.

I have great memories of Thanksgiving at my grandparent’s house. But those are my memories. It’s not for me to recreate those. It’s more about creating experiences around Thanksgiving, no matter what they are, that fill BabyGirl with joy, love, happiness, appreciation, and gratitude. And if going out for dinner on Thanksgiving does that, then there’s nothing wrong with creating this new tradition.

May your table be filled with your favorite foods and surrounded by your favorite people. However you celebrate, I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving!

If you’d like to share how you celebrate, I’d love to know!

Sara

5 Vacation Memory Lessons From A Tween Traveler

Vacation Memory Lessons

I remember one vacation from my childhood, a trip to California with my grandparents. That family vacation was everything to me, not just when I was 7, but for many years to come. Even today it takes me back to 1977. vacation memories

So when I became a mom I wanted BabyGirl to have more than just one vacation to shape her childhood memories. About a year ago, as I talked to her about memories from our recent vacations I learned a big lesson. My desire to make memories for her, no matter how big or amazing or magical or fantastical were just that. My vacation memories. She needed to make her own vacation memories and instead of trying so hard I needed to let go.

5 vacation memory lessons from a tween

  • Kids will remember things differently than parents but it’s supposed to be that way.
  • A child’s idea of fun may not be the same as mom and dad.
  • Memories are personal and can come from experiences both big and small.
  • Parents’ joy and excitement, as well as my other emotions and feelings, shape the memories others make.
  • Kids aren’t thinking about making memories, they’re just trying to have fun in that moment.

Tween Vacation Collage

Out of the mouth of babes, yes? These kids are so much smarter than we give them credit. Shared experiences can turn in to memories. But as a parent my job is to provide opportunities to create memories, not to force my ideas of what should become her lifelong childhood memory.

Tween Statue of Liberty Selfie

Here’s to superhero families and childhood memories to last a lifetime!

Sara

Selling My Childhood Home

Lock and key

And for one last time I turned the key, locked the door, and walked away. Never to return. And despite going to Texas for this specific reason, knowing I am nearing the end of the book, not just the chapter, I began to sob. I sat in the car for at least 20 minutes with memories flooding my mind, unable to actually focus and see the house.

My grandparents built this house in 1968, fully intending to spend their golden years there. They were almost 50 and their children were grown. Within two years I would be living there, with my grandparents and mother as she navigated being a single parent. It would be a place my mother and I would stop when out on errands. It’s where I would ask to go to just talk to my grandpa when my grandma was playing bingo. It’s where I would always call home until I got married.

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I would live in the house for a few years when my mom worked nights. I would walk in to the house after school when I was in second grade, after it had been robbed. I would be in this house to welcome my grandparents home from their many trips to far-off lands.

There were birthday parties, break fast dinners, Thanksgiving feasts, Hanukkah celebrations, and Passover seders. Lots of them. With lots of people. It would also be full of people for wedding celebrations as well as funerals. I can hear the buzz of the dryer. And the quiet as I did my homework at the kitchen table alone before my grandparents came home.

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I remember the kitchen table with the divot in it from when my grandfather’s handgun discharged as he prepared to clean it. The corner cabinet in the dining room, made by my grandfather. The antique curved-glass dessert cart that sat in front of the picture window. And the 1950s Grundig stereo that my grandfather would listen to, which now sits in my house.

For the past year I’ve been ready to sell the house. I’ve gone back and packed up, cleaned, and prepared for this moment. I was focused and methodical. This wasn’t emotional. There were no tears. The house had to be sold. I didn’t want to keep going back and forth to take care of it and my grandmother was no longer able to do it herself. It was a stark reality and I approached it very business-like.

That was until I turned the key that one last time. I can never go back. I’ll never walk through the door again and hear the laughter, the tears, or the silence. It’s all gone. It’s not my grandparent’s house any more. The house may be gone, but the memories. I will always have those.

Sara