No one loves designing place-settings while cooking for judgy relatives more than I do. I’m known for hosting with gusto, standing before huge turkeys while reciting poetry about blessings. But a few years ago, due to illness and misfortune, I could not stomach the holiday preparation or the idea of company.
I decided to cancel Thanksgiving.
My husband welcomed my suggestion of a relaxing day at home. Our daughters were studying Native Americans at school and assumed I was protesting the European importation of alcohol and disease, which destroyed an entire civilization. I was so surprised at their enthusiastic support, I promised PJs, TV, and apple pie. My guilt was quickly replaced with blissful anticipation.
This novel plan meant my extended family would not receive pie, and the protests were rather unpleasant. I did not relish angering my family of 40 Germans, but I stood my ground.
Years later, family lore suggests I was protesting the Midwestern tradition of green bean casserole; that greenish-grey sludge should be outlawed. But as upset as my extended family was at the time, no one held a grudge. After all, without my American literature recitations, the gravy didn’t get cold.
We started that gorgeous Thanksgiving day with an enjoyable walk through our city’s Turkey Trot. We weren’t in a hurry and stopped for hot chocolate as the crowds rushed home. The afternoon turned unusually warm for an Indiana November. We lounged between the games, parades and the back porch, while the kids played outside, soaking up an unexpected day of early winter sun.
In late afternoon I served a turkey breast, sweet potatoes, and plain green beans, not soaked in “cream of” anything. The meal was no different than a weeknight dinner, but not a single complaint was lobbed in my direction. In fact, everyone was pleased to be sitting around a plain table in their PJs, eating “normal food.” We finished the day curled up on the couch, watching “A Christmas Story,” refreshed and ready to ring in the holiday season.
I have always loved Thanksgiving, with its delicious food surrounded by an extended family wearing uncomfortably starched shirts. But that year taught me a valuable lesson: It’s OK to take a break from things you love. In true Pilgrim fashion, I was exhausted and simply grateful to be alive. Spending a quiet day with my loves was a fitting expression of gratitude.
Following our humble holiday, my daughters gave me sweet thank-you cards, calling it “Our Best Thanksgiving Ever.” It’s brought up in gentle whispers, year after year, in the hopes I’ll call a repeat. So this year, I’m canceling Christmas.
Not the season! Not the presents! I’m merely drawing a line around Christmas day for the four of us to be in our PJs together, eating pie.
My kids are so excited about this nothingness that I’ve received repeated warnings regarding my tendency to invent last minute champagne open houses. I’ve responded, “You don’t know me!” as I hide my hot glue gun, bedazzled appetizer sticks and custom invitations behind my back. But even I know sometimes “special” is just a pair of fuzzy socks, a predictably comforting Hallmark movie and pie.
Happy holidays, fellow moms. Wisdom comes suddenly.