Thanksgiving has always been an odd holiday for me. I’m not sure my quaint family-of-three ever knew how to handle it — my mother’s siblings always did their own thing with their respective mates and we never traveled up North to share the feast with my dad’s side. Most of the Thanksgivings I remember centered around my mom, my dad and me — maybe my grandmother would join, but more often than not, it was just us.
We’ve always had the same things: mushy mashed potatoes that I love so much I ever-so-elegantly scoop with my fingers when no one is looking, baked mac n’ cheese, brocoli & cheese casserole, rolls, cranberry sauce from the can, rolls from another can and green beans (not the casserole, but the frozen kind). We never dressed up for it, though I insisted a few years to be a tad fancy when I was a teenager out of vanity. I never helped cook until I took up baking in high school and then I was determined to bake a mean apple pie every year. To this day, my dad requests one to be sent to him.
It’s a little too pricey to fly to North Carolina twice in a six-week period, so I spend Thanksgiving with my friend E, who hosts a pot-luck type dinner for all of the out-of-staters who stay in-city for the holiday. Sometimes we call it Tanksgiving (ahem, a lot of wine is served) or I’ve heard it called Friendsgiving, where we try to recreate those fabulous dishes our parents or aunts seemed so good at fixin’ up. It’s always a good time and usually a night that ends early, offering a mandatory sleep-a-thon until early Friday morning.
This year isn’t really different, but it sure does feel that way to me.
After getting off work early, I rushed home to turn on some Frank Sinatra and enjoy having my five-person apartment all to myself. I completely destroyed the kitchen making a mac n ‘cheese and an apple pie (of course!), then I cleaned it before going to bed, frankly just out of fear that if something happened to me, I couldn’t have anyone finding the apartment a total disaster. Everything was fine and fine was my attitude, but Ol’ Blue Eyes didn’t get me in the festive mood as he usually does. My dishes turned out great (I always take a little nibble) and I tweeted and Facebooked about looking forward to stuffing myself way past the point of being able to wear a sweater dress, but something was off.
With my hair done-up in a high bun, a glass of orange juice to keep me company and an iPhone on 20 percent battery, I sat down to write Christmas cards. After a few, I put down the pen and sighed, annoyed at my disposition and wondering what was bothering me. Do I miss my family? Do I think I should be spending it with them? Is it that I thought I’d be spending it with Mr. P and his family? Do I feel bloated from the miniature dish of macaroni I made myself? What’s wrong with me?
Too frustrated to write sweet sentiments or to even sit down, I got up and paced my apartment, trailing my hand along the hallway, gawking at my room like it was the first time I saw it. And that’s when it hit me: nothing’s wrong, I’m not sad or upset really — I just long for a home.
The city itself feels like home, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. I’ve somehow gathered an incredible group of friends that feel like my family-away-from-family. I’m so incredibly thankful that I’m one of the lucky ones who landed a job she loves and looks forward to going to everyday. I’m healthy and fit, attractive and intelligent, and mostly I’m surrounded by the positive energy of all that I’m involved in and all who love me. But it’s a funny thing living in an apartment complex with strangers you met on Craigslist that somehow turned into friends — as much as you try, it’s not like having a family or building a home.
I’m far too young to think about such things, I’m told. I shouldn’t worry about the future or the husband I’ve yet to meet, the kids I’ve yet to procreate. I have so much living and learning, exploring and traveling ahead of me, I shouldn’t want to settle my roots for years to come. I have the freedom of coming and going as I please, doing as I wish and being totally selfish with my choices, my money and my actions.
And for once, I do actually enjoy the single life — but as much as my career, New York and my fabulous friends are important to me, I sometimes wonder what my future would look like sans marriage or children. Would I finally buy a house somewhere outside of the city all on my own? Or maybe an apartment that I could decorate as I desire? Would I freeze my eggs and revisit them at a time when I was ready, even without a man? Where would I spend Thanksgiving? With my friends and their husbands, or back home with my parents? What would my life look like?
A year ago when I was writing this blog, those thoughts would have angered me. I would have convinced myself that those were negative, love-addicted notions that have no place on this space. I would have been upset that I wasn’t stronger, or even worse, I would have let those fears dominate my thinking and cried myself to sleep on Thanksgiving Eve. But this year, they’re just thoughts. Nothing more, nothing less — just ideas of what my future could or couldn’t be.
Because you know what? Being a strong woman who’s happy (and totally thankful) for her life doesn’t mean that she doesn’t crave happily ever after with a man. (Even if she’s unsure of what the “after” refers to, really.) It doesn’t mean that romantic fantasies are far-fetched or detrimental, they are just part of what we hope tomorrow brings. It doesn’t make us weak or less together or successful, it just makes aware of what we want while knowing that should that not come, we’d be fine otherwise. It doesn’t make us silly because we dream of sharing memories with a man who wants to make memories and have anniversaries, holidays with us.
The Thanksgiving memory I wish to recreate is a memory that was never mine — but something I watched on home videos of my parents. It was my second Thanksgiving and I was strapped into a booster seat, nibbling on baby corn and wearing an adorable brown and red dress (thanks Mom!), with the camera set up to get the whole dinner scene. The tape rolled for nearly an hour-and-a-half, my parents just had to capture the first Thanksgiving they thought I’d remember. I sat and watched the whole segment once, and my favorite part had nothing to do with how I giggled at my dad impersonating a turkey or my icky-face at cranberry sauce (I still make it) — but at an intimate moment not meant to be captured:
My father reached across the table and grabbed my mother’s hand as he said: “You’re so beautiful. You’ve given me the best life and a beautiful daughter. You’re the love of my life.”
So today, I’m thankful for so many things, but one of those happens to be that I have the courage to believe that one day, those words could be spoken to me.