Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the States. Which means there’s a good chance that plenty of you are half paying attention at what I hope is a shortened day at work before heading away (or staying home) to celebrate the holiday. But before we all go our separate ways for the next few days, APW’s newest staff member, Emily, wanted to take the opportunity to talk about her plans for tomorrow. The funny thing is, her post completely caught me off guard (read: I cried like a baby). Because as Michael and I are about to hop on a flight to shoot one of my last weddings of the year, I’m reminded that sometimes the most special holiday plans are the ones that don’t look anything like the picture we have in our head from our childhood. In fact, maybe when we’re older, these do-what-you-can-with-what-you-have holidays will end up the foundation for what become our most cherished rituals and traditions. And with that, we’ll see you guys next week!
—Maddie for Maternity Leave
This is the first year that I’ll be making Thanksgiving dinner. In my family, this is a huge deal, and not one that I thought I’d be taking on so soon. I imagined it happening when I was in my thirties, with a big house that was mine and all of my relatives flying in wearing striped scarves and pulling matching black suitcases. And one of those dogs running around like in all those black and white movies my family loves to watch, although I’m not sure our cats would be too pleased about that. And probably one of our hypothetical future children running around with a cute bow in her hair, because in my family, baby-making comes before hosting duties.
So it’s a bit foreign to me that I’ll be making Thanksgiving dinner for two, just me and Ian, in our one-bedroom apartment. Where’s my perfectly tied apron? My holiday china? My cousins on the couch watching football? Nowhere to be found. (I looked!) My grandmother is in Texas, my mother will be in California, and my Kenyan husband, who could really care less about Thanksgiving, will be working until 6:00 that night.
The first Thanksgiving that I’m at the helm of is falling short of what I always imagined, and yet I couldn’t be happier.
Our first Thanksgiving as a married couple, we flew to Texas to be with my father’s side of the family, headed by my grandmother. I got to show off my new husband, and we all had dinner at a restaurant (borderline sacrilege, trust me) so it was very low-stress and lovely. But it was incredibly expensive for both of us to fly and rent a car. We had to give up our first Christmas tree to afford it.
Our second Thanksgiving, I went to my grandmother’s alone, which seemed like a great idea. This way, I could quiet the whispers of this could be her last Thanksgiving—an idea everyone has fixated on since I was eight—and for only the cost of one ticket instead of two. Ian stayed in North Carolina and worked, which meant that he got to celebrate the holiday in a way he liked: collecting overtime. We both did exactly what we wanted to do, so it should have been perfect. But as nice as it was to be with my family for Thanksgiving, the pain of missing my husband made me realize something.
He was staying home, and I was going home. I was visiting my family, and yet I was missing my family.
That’s when I realized that home wasn’t something I’d left behind when I travelled cross-country with my future husband, my cat, and everything that would fit in my car. Home was something I was building. Home is something we’re building together.
So this Thursday at 5:00 in the morning, Ian will leave for work. I’ll get up and start preparing the dishes my family always puts on the table. Cornbread stuffing, cranberry sauce, and diner rolls, just like Texas. There will be pumpkin cheesecake instead of pie, for Ian, and a bottle of bubbly from our favorite wine store that we always drink on special occasions. I’ll open two cans of turkey dinner for our spoiled cats, and when he gets home in the evening, we’ll sit down at a table that is usually my desk and share our first Thanksgiving meal as a married couple in our home.
Photo by: Hart & Sol West