I do not remember the year, but when I was a teenager, we spent Thanksgiving with my brother and sister-in-law in Boston. They had just moved there and were celebrating one of their first Thanksgiving in their new home. I was in Boston with my mom and step-dad. Some of my sister-in-law’s family were also in town.
We all crammed into their tiny kitchen and cooked all day long. I do not remember any family drama or interesting dynamics although I’m sure they were present. All I remember is the holiday joy. It was the most perfect Thanksgiving in my memory — so much family (as mismatched as it may be) and too much food. I am positive that we’ve had many beautiful Thanksgivings since then, but that one in Boston is the one that stands out. It was as close to “picture perfect” as it can be.
When we had our first baby at the end of October 2015, I had visions of it being THE Thanksgiving — the first one we’d celebrate as parents. We had fought hard for that baby and had so much to be thankful for.
The baby was barely a month old and I had only been discharged from the hospital the week before due to complications. But my whole immediate family was in Thibodaux for the holiday. I had delivered the first baby in roughly 6 years. Everyone was eager to meet the baby and we were just as eager to show him off.
We made the trip to Thibodaux and thought it would be fine being away from home for those couple of nights as we celebrated Thanksgiving. But we were not fine. I was still in so much pain, on pain meds, trying to dry up my worthless milk supply, and the baby was up all night. Truthfully, we had no idea what we were doing and we were so in over our heads.
I remember walking downstairs on Thanksgiving morning so vividly. I was giving myself a pep-talk. I just needed coffee and to get cooking. It could still be picture perfect.
But as much as I deeply love and cherish my family, we are NOT your “as seen on TV” family — as I am sure most are NOT.
But year after year, I’ve hoped for cooking, Christmas music, and joy. And my expectations are always too high. One year all the cousins got hand, foot, and mouth. And there have been years when one or all of us haven’t been in joyous spirits for one reason or another. I spent years with a holiday hangover — but not the good kind.
I have only been let down by my expectations. I have only been let down by my own hoping for something that does not exist.
Last year, we had a fresh baby and most of my family was out of town for Thanksgiving. I am sure they all had their reasons, but some of their ghosts probably had to do with the fact that I threatened lives with hand washing and NO KISSING THE BABY. But regardless of my postpartum anxiety, my feelings were hurt. Why were we not doing this big grand Thanksgiving when I had just delivered a miracle? Were we not all thankful for him?
We spent Thanksgiving with my mom and stepdad and my husband’s parents. It was quiet. And we had just enough food. I spent most of the time pumping and nursing only to emerge for the parade and the food.
It was perfect.
And in those quiet moments, I was just so thankful. I was thankful for the beautiful family we were celebrating with. I was beyond thankful for the fresh baby on my chest. I was thankful for the family that was spread near and far — who all love us in their unique way.
That is when I decided to lower my expectations.
We do not have to all sing Christmas music in the kitchen while the turkey cooks. We can be thankful for each other from wherever we are. And who knows if that Thanksgiving in Boston was as magical as my teenage brain conjured it up to be anyway.
The love we have is complicated and too big for TV anyway.
So, this Thanksgiving — on Thursday, I will be the first one in the kitchen. I will pour the coffee and blare the Christmas music. I will dance around the kitchen as I prepare the one dish I can. And I will be so thankful — for that is the reason for the season.
Cheers y’all — to family, food, and lower expectations.