The Thanksgiving Struggle: I Don’t Like Turkey
Here’s my holiday confession: I don’t like turkey. I don’t like cranberries. I don’t like stuffing. While my husband looks forward to devouring Thanksgiving delicacies, I brace myself for brushing my fork along the plate, carefully directing the pieces to disguise that I haven’t touched a thing.
I also hate the traffic. We live in South Florida. The snowbirds descend upon us with their families, followed by college kids from the northeast who roast their skin under our hot Thanksgiving sun. There are two main arteries in and out of our town. And they can get pretty clogged during holiday season.
This year, I decided to move Thanksgiving to our summer cottage in Beech Mountain, North Carolina. I was ready to get out of Florida and host all the cousins and siblings in the mountains. I envisioned us playing our football game in sweatshirts and on a grassy knoll, sipping egg nog, and immersing ourselves in the traditions of a true northern holiday.
My teenage son didn’t share the same vision.
“Mom, if we go to North Carolina, we’re going to miss the Maccabi games. I’ve never missed them,” he said. Had we taught him nothing about prioritizing family over football?
“Sure, Jordan. I’ll just tell your aunts, uncles, and 17 cousins that you’d rather not go because you prefer to play games with your buddies.”
He reacted to this with the requisite teenage eye roll and indecipherable grunt, to which I responded with the requisite parental admonition.
“This is Thanksgiving!” I screamed across the table. “Do you have any idea how grateful you should be? Do you realize there are people in the world starving or sick or without family? You have everything—a roof over your head, a great school, parents who love you, and so much more.”
He was unmoved. “I really don’t want to go to North Carolina,” he repeated.
I was stubborn and adamant. “We are going to NC.”
He grunted again, crossed his arms, and looked as annoyed as I felt. We laid the subject of Thanksgiving aside for awhile, but it soon re-surfaced when my son’s cell flashed the following texting string between my niece and him:
Mom’s getting all nutso about a mountain holiday.
IT’S FREEZING HERE. I WANT TO BE IN MIAMI.
You know my mom. She gets something in her head, and we’re all doomed.
YOUR FAMILY’S TURKEY! THE BEACH! WE NEED TO BE THERE!
Tell your dad to talk to her. He’s the only one who can change her mind. You guys can do Maccabi with us. It’s awesome.
I’M ON IT.
I felt neither guilt nor anger at rifling through their exchange. Actually, their sense of connection to each other and to our family warmed my heart. In person, these teens often pretend the other doesn’t exist; yet here they were, communicating across the miles about Thanksgiving. They appreciated the holiday food. More importantly, they understood the closeness I shared with my brother. And Jordan wanted his cousins to join him at the Maccabi games.
The Spirit Of Thanksgiving: Teens vs Adults
And so it dawned on me. This was the essence of the holiday—this conspiring-against-us-adults text exchange. In their innocent words, I saw a bond of togetherness, a willingness to share, and the desire to be together, regardless of the location. I’d spent so many hours trying to drill the right thing into their heads that I’d lost sight of the true meaning of the holidays.
So, I still don’t like turkey or stuffing or cranberries. Warm weather doesn’t feel like the right temperature for Thanksgiving. And the mess of holiday traffic still drives me crazy. But, whether the temperature is too cold or too hot, I now feel fortunate to join together with family, enjoy a wonderful meal, and share our gratitude.
And whether that holiday table is in North Carolina or Miami Beach, it’s about the faces surrounding us, the people in our lives whom we love, and the things we would do for them out of love. Every day. Without pause. Without blinking.
The essence of holiday spirit comes from deep within our hearts. It crosses miles and surpasses logic. You don’t always see it. You can’t always touch it. In my case, you don’t always taste it.
But if you close your eyes, you can feel it all around you.