The family you choose vs. the one you’re born into

I spent Thanksgiving week in Kansas City at my parents’ house. I hadn’t seen them in about six months, and hadn’t seen my dog for longer than that. The house was mostly the same, with a few changes here and there. My mother had, for instance, cleaned out and organized my bedroom, turning it into a tasteful yet still personalized guest room.

This was a notable Thanksgiving because it was the first one I’d spent with my parents in three years. Last year I spent Thanksgiving in Germany and two years ago I was with my grandparents in Vermont. Three years ago, I had just returned from England and was still readjusting. Four years ago, I was in England.

We decided to spend the week together, just the three of us. And the dog. I’ve always been closer to my parents than many people, I guess, because I’m an only child. At the end of the day, it’s the three of us. And the dog, so long as there’s cheese.

I’m also normally a fairly insular person. I don’t let people in easily and I can be aloof. I don’t make friends that easily but the friends I have are uniformly rock solid. So the arrangement of me, my mum and my dad is pretty much fine with me.

And yet I spent this week in almost constant contact, via email and Gchat, with my boyfriend, thousands of miles away. It was important to me that he understood what was going on and why, what was involved and that it mattered to me. He’s promised to celebrate the holiday with me when and if we make it to that point of being able to celebrate it together.

While it was great to celebrate the holiday with my biological family, it was also wonderful to start to share it with, if all goes well, my eventual chosen family: me, my boyfriend and our blended families. There’s that saying of, “Friends are the family you choose,” but this is decidedly deeper … legal even, eventually, maybe. It was a big step for me to share the intricacies of the holiday and family traditions with someone else, and for that sharing to be valued. That my boyfriend is a foreigner makes it that much more special, because, lacking the Thanksgiving tradition growing up, he has my example to follow.

Poor prior experiences with trying to open up about traditions to the men I’ve dated made me appreciate the enthusiastic response from Jamie all the more. It made me want to go all out for him and to make him look forward to the holiday every year as much as he would if he were American.

I think we may make it after all.

(Jinx.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

I will continue with the second half of my Paris adventures tomorrow. For now, I’ll share news of my Thanksgiving in Canterbury.

My three friends and I decided a few weeks ago to celebrate Thanksgiving. Rather, I told them how awesome it’d be and they came around. My dear mum had sent me a turkey centerpiece and tablecloth of appropriate gaucheness earlier in the season, which I saved for the occasion.

Yesterday afternoon, my hardy friend Hannah and I took the bus to Sainsbury, the “nice” grocery store in town. I didn’t really make a list; I just tried to remember what all we usually ate. Hannah’s a vegetarian, so I brought her along so she could pick out her own meal.

For the grand total of £22, £5.50 a pop, we bought the following: turkey breasts for Rachel, Deborah and me; a pie for Hannah with pine nuts, spinach and feta; whole potatoes for mashing; butter and cream for the mash; fresh raw carrots for steaming; dinner rolls; cranberry sauce; cranberry-and-orange stuffing; turkey gravy and vegetable gravy; and a whole orange-and-raspberry cheesecake.

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After my class ended at 6, I went over to Rachel and Hannah’s kitchen and we got to work. While they peeled potatoes and carrots, I put the table together, took photos, prepped the stuffing and put the turkey and vegetable pie together. We baked each separately in the oven with stuffing. I also did the gravy. Mmm gravy. Ill-advisedly, we mashed the entire bag of potatoes and ended up with a sizable mound. Hannah steamed the carrots together with leftover green beans, and I baked the dinner rolls.

We each agreed that this was probably the best meal (“best” as in hardiest) since we’d arrived here. I said a (slightly awkward) grace beforehand, and we tucked in. Everything was really good; the turkey was even properly moist. We all ate way, way too much and had to sit to digest it all. Deb gamely did most of the washing while Rachel and Hannah dried and I cleaned the table off. After that we had cheesecake and some delicious sugar doughnuts that Deb had brought back from a day trip to Lille yesterday.

Everything worked out well, and I realized that this was the first Thanksgiving I’d spent where I was in charge of the most of the planning, coordination and cooking. And I didn’t screw it up!  I’m just glad I got to spend it with good friends who were happy to share our overeating tradition.

My mother has also informed me that several people read this blog but don’t comment. Please comment if you see something you like or have questions! I like feedback and I like knowing that someone is reading.