Growing up, my parents and I went to my Mom-Mom & Pop-Pop’s house for any holiday. They lived about 7 minutes from us and lived in the same house my dad grew up in. My aunt and her two daughters would visit from the coast of North Carolina as well. Any holiday meal meant the adults were in the dining room, while the three cousins were at the kitchen table. I remember we thought it was so funny how the adults would be talking and laughing… but only until each person’s plate was full, and then, my-oh-my, it sure would be quiet in there.
Traditions tend to change over the years for one reason or another, though. In our case, Pop-Pop passed away and Mom-Mom moved to a smaller house. So then our holiday gatherings took place at her condo, and we were all able to fit around the dining room table.
Then my aunt and her family stayed home for Thanksgiving, and so my parents, Mom-Mom, and I drove about half an hour away to another family member’s home to share the holiday meal with a different set of cousins. Those meals were loud, boisterous, and happy. My family laughs louder and harder than any other — though, I’m sure everyone feels that is true of their family. Despite the noise and ruckus, it was always a good time.
And so, over the years, as our Thanksgiving traditions changed locations and people who we spent the day with, there were enough constants to keep it feeling like the same. My parents and Mom-Mom were always there. There was the dish called “pink stuff” that was always on the table, which was a sweet casserole of sorts made with whipped cream. So was my mom’s sweet potato casserole and macaroni and cheese. Also, there was always laughter and full bellies and happy hearts.
But marriage changes things, doesn’t it? Hopefully marriage changes things in the best kind of way for people. When I married Josh, I became a Rosenberg–that I took his last name was inconsequential. I was and would have been a Rosenberg even if I’d kept my name. Since going to NC for Thanksgiving didn’t make a lot of sense, we’ve enjoyed Thanksgivings just outside of Detroit at my in-law’s since 2012.
Many things are similar to Thanksgivings in the past: There are happy hearts, lots of laughter, and a delicious meal that fills our bellies. But there are different things, too. It’s not uncommon for us to go on a bike ride or walk to Boy Scout Point and back at some point over the weekend, as my Rosenberg family, particularly my husband, will take any opportunity to do something active outside. We also make different food each year: a pork roast eaten with tortillas one year, and different iterations of the classic Thanksgiving meal where the turkey is the star, but the table is filled with different sides each year. Sometimes, like this year, we don’t have a traditional meal on Thanksgiving, opting instead to go to the Detroit Lions game, then drive through the tunnel to Windsor, Ontario to hunt down a good Chinese meal.
In the end it’s not about being with exactly the same people and doing the exact same things year after year. It’s being with people you love and holding the meaningful pieces of your life close. It’s a time to breathe in deeply and refocus and recenter yourself, as the holiday season (Hanukkah! Christmas!) gets underway. It’s a time to remember and reflect on those who are not with you any longer and you miss. Finally, it’s a time to make new memories, laugh, and join around the table for a delicious meal made by those you love.
The best part is, though I know I tend to wait for a big holiday or family gathering to soak in all these good things, taking time to be with those I love and reflect on all the beautiful things in my life is something I can and should do anytime.
Here’s to a season of family (whatever that means to you!), laughter, love, and gratitude that these are part of our lives all year long.