Have you noticed the “holiday” editions of magazines at the checkout counter lately? I’m a sucker for magazines. I shouldn’t be allowed to go to the grocery store any more because I regularly find myself seduced by the magazine cover stories: “101 Ways to Make This Thanksgiving the Best Ever”, “36 Adorable and Easy Table Decorations”, “Clean Your House Top to Bottom in 15 Minutes”. Every lifestyle magazine on the rack right now is slam full of tips and tricks to (supposedly) make your Thanksgiving one that your guests will remember forever, and for good reasons, not like the year the dog ate the turkey and then threw it up on the living room rug.
The one article that’s missing is the one I need most: the one on how to manage my expectations. I always seem to start the season with a grand plan and a head full of expectations, and I inevitably end up disappointed.
See, there’s a part of me that keeps thinking that one day I’m going to have that magically warm and festive Thanksgiving with the elegant table and the matching dishes and the Martha Stewart-y meal, with the fire burning merrily in the background, and the happy, smiling children, and I need to get over it already. I don’t even have a wood-burning fireplace and my table arrangements do not ever approach anything resembling “elegant”. That’s just not my style. And all those nice little touches do not a Thanksgiving make. (If you do manage to regularly create that sort of celebration, well, my hat is off to you.)
So I’m going to get real with you. Here’s how my Thanksgiving will likely unfold:
My family of four is going to drive several hours to get to my hometown, where we will stay in a hotel because there’s not enough room in my mother’s house for all of us to sleep. On the morning of Thanksgiving Day we will gather at my Mom’s modest home and my husband will watch football on the TV in Mom’s bedroom while my kids alternately watch the Thanksgiving Day parade on the living room TV, play with personal electronic devices, fight with each other, and whine about when the food will be ready. Mom and I will work together to make the meal and there will invariably be far more food than we need. My brother and his family of four may or may not show up before we eat, after we eat, or at all. We’ll leave the food in the pans on the stove instead of putting it in fancy serving dishes. Instead of sitting around the table we’ll fill our plates and take them into the living room, where we’ll eat while watching TV. Chances are very good that my mother will take charge of the remote control and the entertainment will be a movie on the Hallmark channel. After we eat, Mom and I will go to the kitchen and moan about how we cooked too much food, then we’ll put the leftovers away and wash the pots and pans by hand. Later we’ll sort through the Black Friday ads and decide if there’s anything on sale that’s worth braving the crowds. The rest of the afternoon will likely be spent looking through photo albums and catching up on what’s been going on since we saw each other last.
And so what if our family’s Thanksgiving is not much like the ones you see on TV, in the magazines, and on social media? It’s not “less than” either. Comparison is the thief of joy and I’m not going to sit by and let it steal my holiday joy this year. I’m going to choose to find the good, like I’m always encouraging my children to do.
We don’t have special place settings and fancy plates, but we’ll have more time to sit and chat because we don’t have to wash a lot of dishes.
We don’t have a large family and the huge table to sit around, but we’ll have the comfort of familiarity.
We don’t make gourmet meals with exotic (to us) ingredients, but I love the way my Mom and I fall into a familiar rhythm when we cook together. I’m all too mindful that one day this will be just a memory.
It’s not necessary to try to live up to some ideal image of what Thanksgiving Day should be. There are as many kinds of celebrations as there are families who celebrate. And that is exactly as it should be.
So, this Thanksgiving Day, you and I are off the hook. There’s no rule book or check list to follow, and it’s not a contest. In fact, the only requirement is found in the name itself: THANKS GIVING.
Serve turkey, or ham, or Chinese takeout.
Eat it around a pretty table, or sitting on the floor in front of the TV.
It doesn’t matter. The state of your heart is what matters.
On Thanksgiving Day, as on every other day, I want to find myself humbled and grateful for all the gifts God has brought my way.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17
What makes your family’s Thanksgiving Day different?