With a thankful heart, with an endless joy

Our compromise on holidays has generally been to spend Thanksgiving with Mike’s sister and Christmas with my family. We did this for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it’s honestly the most convenient thing. I had been known to pay lip service to the fact that Thanksgiving is more important in Mike’s family than it is in mine, but it wasn’t until last year that I really started to get that. Last year, for some reason, we didn’t go see Mike’s sister, so we spent the holiday with my family. That means going to my grandma’s house for potluck, which may or may not include all of Mike’s required dishes. And then, on Friday, we made our own turkey, Mike’s family’s stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc. Just for the two of us. Just so Mike could eat leftovers for the rest of the week, since that’s part of the whole Thanksgiving experience.

Even that didn’t really make me get it, though. It wasn’t until this year, when, again, Mike spent all day Friday working on a turkey so that we could have leftovers this week. This year I helped with the stuffing (and, as mentioned before, made another sweet potato casserole, which definitely should make me Mike’s favorite wife ever).

It’s interesting to me that it took me so long to realize how important this holiday is to him. I mean, I knew it, but I didn’t get it. Since it’s . . . a holiday I enjoy but not one that’s hugely important to me, I didn’t get it. My memories of Thanksgiving center around my grandma’s house, all of us being together, lots of food. My mom has three brothers and one sister who live in North Carolina, and I think almost all of them do another Thanksgiving elsewhere, so it’s not really necessary for us to have a fancy turkey dinner. We usually do have a turkey breast and dressing (not stuffing), but . . . it’s not the same as being at Mike’s sister’s house, with all the hustle and bustle.

Mike’s childhood Thanksgivings were apparently a big affair, with a huge turkey, starting the stuffing earlier in the week, enormous side dishes (so there were plenty of leftovers), appetizers, desserts . . . much more traditional than my family’s experience. When my other grandmother was alive, I think we did the more traditional dinner with her, but she got very sick and we didn’t see her on holidays after I was nine or ten, so I don’t really remember that very well. What I’m saying is that the sheer volume of food at Mike’s sister’s house was pretty shocking to me that first year we spent Thanskgiving with her. I think I brought cheesy potatoes (frozen shredded potatoes layered with onions and cheese (and salt and pepper), with heavy cream poured over them. mmmmmm) and Mike was like, “That’s fine, but people will probably just eat mashed potatoes.” Oh. (He was right.)

So we keep trying to move forward, to make the holidays special as well as making them our own, and this year, again, that meant making our own turkey as we put up our Christmas decorations, which I was happy to help with. It’s funny how I’m still learning these things.

People have been very kind this year about Thanksgiving and the holiday season. I thought about that a lot on Saturday, when we went to see a matinee of Stranger Than Fiction. Going to see Stranger Than Fiction was a big deal for us, though, because earlier this year, we realized that neither of us had ever seen a Will Ferrell movie in the theater. Seeing this movie meant breaking that streak, which was kind of a big deal, since we were pretty proud of the fact that we’d never seen one of his movies in the theater. I even told Mike, right when the movie started, that we still had time to walk out. But we elected to stay.

I had been wanting to see it, mostly because of how much I love Emma Thompson, and I think I liked it better than it actually deserved. It’s another one of those movies that struck a chord with me, that hit me at the right time so that the way I feel about the movie has a little bit more to do with my own current emotional state than how good the movie itself was. (See also: Elizabethtown.) It’s not that I thought it was bad, though, not by any means. I enjoyed the story and the characters, but even more than that, I liked what it said about life and gratitude and . . . those things made it the perfect movie for Thanksgiving weekend. At the end, Emma Thompson has a voiceover about being thankful for small things in life, things like cookies and noseplugs and the hand of someone you love, which was a good reminder for me.

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