Thanksgiving is a very traditional holiday, filled with family, friends, and lots of the traditional foods. But this year was a very non traditional, at least for me. My family was extremely close growing up and the holidays were an especially happy time. Mom would start cooking days in advance, and all of our favorites would be on the menu. In addition to turkey and fixings, there were always yummies like cheese balls, sausage balls, Fantasy Fudge, the Burch family World Famous Cheesecake, pineapple upside-down cake…The list goes on and on.
I loved our Thanksgiving dinners. Afterwards we were all in a food coma, Dad napping and us girls chatting while sipping wine.
Since my parents have passed, it has been a mix of new and old traditions. Everything from Day before Turkey Day Tacos to driving to see family, to lots of food, and after dinner Zoom calls with loved ones. Last year it was last minute, as we had planned to go to Georgia to see my family, but had to cancel due to the house (finally!) closing the day before. It was Chinese food left overs, wine and lot’s of love at the table with my almost in-laws. This year we were planning to see my cousins, but they had their first grandchild born a few days before, so we made other plans.
We still went to Georgia, but we saw friends I had not seen since before moving to Texas. We were invited to eat with one of my best friends cousins whom I had not met before, but who welcomed us into their home with warm smiles, hot turkey, and cold drinks. Then back to my friends farm where we spent time catching up and feeding the animals. There was also time to see more friends in Atlanta, those who I had missed and had not been able to see for years.
And even as Thanksgiving will never be the same as when I was younger, and many of those traditions will not continue, there is plenty for which to thankful. There is plenty of joy. And that is the thing about life, we are constantly rebuilding, developing, and creating our lives. Just because the holidays will never be the same because loved ones are gone, doesn’t mean that we cannot still find the joy of the season. We just have to find new joy in our own time.
And that’s OK. Because our lives are ever-evolving brilliant works of art, a best selling novel with twists and turns even we don’t see coming. For me, I have found joy in celebrating with those I love and who love me, be it friends or family. And there are always things for which we can be grateful, if we look hard enough. Chances are we really don’t have to look that hard. And if you have lost a loved one, and don’t feel like celebrating, that’s OK too. Take time to cry and reflect. Take time to miss them. But know that they would not want you living in sadness and grief for an extended time. You can smile through tears and laugh through heartache. And eventually, you will feel joy again.
Life is short and so is the holiday season. So look around and find what makes you smile, what gives you joy, and pay attention to who you are with when your heart is full. Take lots of pictures and make the time to connect, because we never know what might happen in the year ahead. If you can’t do old traditions, do you best to make new ones, or participate in someone else’s traditions. Why not? Life is what you make it. So celebrate now and worry later.