5 Things That Made Thanksgiving So Special When I Was a Kid

leaf fightBecoming a mom has made me incredibly nostalgic. As my son gets older and becomes more aware of the holidays like Thanksgiving and what they mean, it makes me wistful for the way I grew up -- which couldn't be more different than what he knows.

You see, I was raised in a nice, quaint, mid-western college town. It was the kind of place that had a low crime rate, tree-lined streets, and true neighborhoods where you actually knew your neighbors. Most importantly, almost my entire family was from that town -- aunts, uncles, cousins, great-aunts, etc. By comparison, growing up in Manhattan is completely different in every way. Of course, there are wonderful things about being a city kid, but there are just as many, if not more, amazing things about life far away from the concrete jungle. So here are the things that made Thanksgiving so special for me as a kid:

  1. Big family dinners. Every year, everyone always gathered at my grandparents' house for Thanksgiving. Though we all lived in the same town, or just a town over, it was still a special day for us to reconnect and eat ourselves into a coma. Family friends stopped by, the grown-ups would chat and laugh about old memories and the kids would play all day. It was hectic but so much fun. Being so far from home now, means we have much smaller gatherings at our apartment.
  2. The smell of autumn. It's hard to put into words, but the newly fallen leaves in my hometown have a particular scent. It's a mix of dewy dampness and nature against the crisp, clean air. It always felt so good taking in big, refreshing breath. No grimy, big city odors - truck exhaust, garbage piled up on streets, dog pee (and people urine for that matter). 
  3. Space to spread out. It's hard to feel as though you ever have enough space in New York City. Growing up, the house was crowded with family and friends but you still had room to move. Plus, if someone wanted to watch football in the family room, there was always another place where the kids could catch The Cosby Show or a VHS tape of some family friendly movie. In the city, celebrations are usually confined to our kitchen-dining room-living room hybrid space.
  4. Leaf fights.  I remember me and all of my cousins running around the backyard at my grandparents' house before the big dinner was served and having big battles in the backyard. All we did was scoop up the millions of leaves on the ground and go at it. It was so simple, yet so memorable because we were all together. So what if we got our "holiday outfits" a little scuffed. Our moms were just happy to have us out of their hair while they finished the food prep. While most kids in this country still get to do this, it's not always an option for city kids. Besides, I can't imagine letting my kid frolic in the few fallen leaves in our nearly treeless neighborhood. God knows what is on them and there's not enough for any real fun.
  5. After dinner flick. Just as crucial as family dinner, was the after dinner trip to the cinema. All the kids would pile into the cars and be whisked off to whatever new, family-friendly film that had just come out. Sure, we went to movies other times during the year, but not all together. It just made for really great memories. We can still do that with my son, I suppose. It will just involve a much smaller group (no cousins here) and hailing a taxi -- which, like most city kids, he could do by age 3.

What childhood traditions to you wish you could shared with your kids now?

Image via simonnjulia/Flickr

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