Keeping Thanksgiving Real

Rockwell Thanksgiving.jpg

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?




7 thoughts on “Keeping Thanksgiving Real

  1. Oh my friend… I love this for so many reasons! Honestly – there was a day when we would fill our house (or some family members’ house) full with relatives and strangers… with people we loved, and people who needed love and I so enjoy setting a table and making all the things pretty… I would hand make name tags with room to write what we were thankful for on the back and yes – I would MAKE everyone do it and I would save them and scrapbook them later… (and by later, I mean before Christmas time! I know… I am not so thrilled with me either?) I loved it… I miss it… but I have settled in to the reality of where we are now and it is quieter… with less fanfare and less food and less – well, just less. And it is good! The family all lives spread out and doesn’t travel anymore… we’re not plugged in to a large church, aware of as many needs or friends without any place to gather… our girlie works, yes – on Thanksgiving… my parents are older and there is just no need to set the table fancy and create an event out of a simple day. We can give thanks, as you said, around the table, or in the living room gathered around the tv (#GoHawks!) …as long as we remember to slow, to breathe, to count… that is the heart of Giving Thanks anyway, right? Well – that, and PIE!!! xoxo

    • Yum – pie! We’ve had Thanksgiving meals before where we gathered friends and family and had a large crowd, and I even remember one year that my daughter made place cards. Now, of course, we live far away from our families and getting everyone in one place is near to impossible. I can see the beauty in a decorated and well-set table but it’s just not for our family. And while your gathering may be small at this point, it will not always be this way because your sweet girlie will one day bring a man home, and maybe a few years later they will start a family of their own and you will find yourself with a full house once again. Thank you for being such an encourager!

  2. I love it Kim!!! We may be eating pot roast leftover from the meal train delivering to us. I still can’t get it together! Thank God for the women at my church. Xoxox

    • Oh honey, nobody expects you to have it together with an infant in the house! And pot roast is delicious. I wish we were closer geographically so I could bring you a pie or something. 🙂 Or get my baby fix.

  3. Kim, your Thanksgiving day sounds a lot like the one we will have. I too used to dream of the Pinterest pretty holidays even before there was a Pinterest but after my MIL illness and death I realized that the fellowship with my family was so much more importatn than the placesetting. And beside who wants to wash all those dishes.

    • Oh man! How on earth did we know when we were falling short before Pinterest came along? The relationships are so much more important than the plates, the decor, even the food. We’ve used paper plates for years. The food tastes just the same, and my mother doesn’t have a dishwasher, unless you count me. 🙂

  4. With our life topsy turvy right now, our Thanksgiving will look very different. I’ve never set the “perfect” table. We pick up nicer paper plates and use plasticware. The fanciest I get is to put a table cloth on the tables. But we’ve always had lots of people. Some years close to 30. This year it will be our 6, hubby’s Aunt and Uncle and maybe another young man we know…it’s gonna be awfully empty at our table. We usually turn on the parade, but there are no grand football fans in our house, so the tv goes off after it’s over.

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