I'm Not Spending Thanksgiving With My Family

by Sa'iyda Shabazz
Originally Published: 
Sa'iyda Shabazz

Since college, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. There is just something about it that’s so comforting. Over the years, though, Thanksgiving has evolved for me. In my opinion, its the best holiday for creating your own traditions, and that’s what makes it so great.

This year, I won’t be spending Thanksgiving with my family. My parents live far away, and none of us can afford to fly to the other side of the country for a couple days. And though the holiday falls on my dad’s birthday too, we’ll just have to be satisfied with a video chat instead.

Since I moved out of my parents’ house, Thanksgiving has become less about family and more about choosing the people I want to spend the day with. Last year for Thanksgiving, it ended up just being my son and I for most of the day. I always have an open door policy in case any of my friends need somewhere to go, and one of my close friends did come over later in the evening with her teenage daughter for a second dinner.

But I’m also totally fine with an intimate dinner for me and my kid, who eats chicken instead of turkey and will barely touch any of the sides I slave over. This year, I will likely invite my son’s father and his girlfriend over for dinner if they don’t have any other plans. I think it’s important for my son to spend holidays with his dad if he can, and it’s a way for us to show that we’re a team.

Truth be told, I kind of love when it’s a small group having a quiet meal. For most of my childhood, Thanksgiving was always just me and my parents. My mom would make a whole spread and it was a day to chill and eat and decompress. In my 20s, I worked retail and would be exhausted on Thanksgiving. When we were still together, my ex and I always made Thanksgiving our quiet holiday because we were both too tired to travel and deal with people after working.

In the last few years, Thanksgiving has become a day for friends. When you spend the day with friends, there’s a lot less pressure. You don’t feel the same need to entertain them; they are perfectly content sitting with you in the kitchen, or hanging out in the living and talking to you while you cook. They may even jump in to help fetch the rolls out of the oven or plop the marshmallows on the yams. While you may know you didn’t use enough cheese in your macaroni and cheese, they don’t care. And even if no one comes over to my apartment this year, we’ll celebrate Friendsgiving the next day at a friend’s house, so it’ll be all good.

Even though we don’t spend the day with family, my son and I are used to it being just the two of us most of the time. We create our own traditions for the holiday. In the morning, we’ll watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, which is one childhood tradition I try to keep for him.

I’ll likely have done a lot of prep the night before so that I don’t have to focus on anything but the turkey, but because he likes to help, I’ll let him participate. I always make macaroni and cheese, and he loves to grate the cheese. It takes forever, and he usually loses interest quickly, but I let him grate until he doesn’t want to anymore.

Then we’ll probably watch a movie while the turkey cooks. After we eat, I’ll convince him to watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with me. Then after he goes to sleep I’ll likely eat another bowl of our macaroni and cheese.

Sounds like a pretty amazing day, doesn’t it?

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that doesn’t need to be overwhelming. It’s a day to reflect on the good things that have happened so far that year, and think about what you want from the rest of the year. It’s a day to chill and eat and maybe sneak in a nap.

Thanksgiving has no rules imposed on it that you must spend it with family, or even that you have to make dinner. You can miss the people you can’t spend the day with, but it doesn’t have to be a cloud over your day.

When my son looks back on his Thanksgivings, if remembers it being just the two of us in our tiny apartment watching Charlie Brown try to kick the football and missing, I will be totally okay with that. Because these quiet Thanksgivings, with just my son, are absolute heaven for me.

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