I went to college not far from where my parents lived so I didn’t experience what it was like to come home for the holidays until I left the state after I finished school. My family likes to stay close to home — my brother and sister live close enough to attend the same church my parents do — so my move 2,000 miles away was a pretty big deal. And by the time the fall came around, I was missing my family something fierce.
I called my mother to make arrangements for coming home for Thanksgiving. You know, Thanksgiving. That great holiday where family comes together around a big table and eats stuff you only eat once a year. Thanksgiving. The same holiday I’d spent with my family for a good 21 years in a row.
“Why would you come home for Thanksgiving?” my mother asked me.
I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. “What do you mean?”
“Well, aren’t you coming home for Christmas just a few weeks later?”
“So why would you come home for Thanksgiving?” she asked.
I quickly got off the phone and cried, vowing to never go home for Thanksgiving no matter what. The funny thing is that I haven’t. We’re talking 15 years later and I have not even contemplated going home again. Sure, I still live far away from Colorado. But that’s not why.
It turned out that my mother’s totally right. There’s no need to come home for Thanksgiving. The first year, my housemate (also from Colorado) and I hosted a friend from Colorado for Thanksgiving. We made a totally awesome meal. The next year I began a new tradition of spending the holiday with another close friend. She’s also close to her family but they’re not terribly sentimental. For a few years that meant exciting meals at the homes of her friends. I’ll never forget the Thanksgiving celebrated at the home of her boyfriend’s investment banker father. Fantastic meal, unbelievably great company, and stories to last a lifetime. They asked the Episcopal priest (and head of a university) to bless the meal and he said he’d rather not. They told the story of a daughter’s Buddhist divorce ceremony gone awry that somehow still has me laughing.
Some years I traveled. Far. I figured out that expat Americans with mothers quite different than mine are called home in late November. So if you fly out to Europe prior to Thanksgiving and come back shortly thereafter, airlines practically pay you to fill the plane. I went to Prague, to London, to Paris.
When my friend moved to Ohio, we spent Thanksgivings there. We both warned our spouses about the possible need to spend Thanksgiving with each other before we married.
Having a mother who won’t let me come home for Thanksgiving turned out to be one of the biggest blessings in my life. I’m already planning on how to tell my children to spend the holiday abroad or with friends.