All My Thanksgiving Traditions Are Gone — but I'm Still Grateful

leaves fall thanksgivingThanksgiving has always been about gathering around the table at my parents' house. For years, it was my sister, mom, and dad filling up on stuffing with different guests over the years -- boyfriends who turned into husbands -- and then along came our children. In the last few years, however, things dramatically changed and our Thanksgiving tradition was no more. 

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My sister took a new job in another country, so she moved away with her husband and two kids to start a new life. I was so excited for her big move, but selfishly didn't want her to go. I knew this meant once-a-year visits (maybe more if we were lucky), and seeing my nieces grow up through photos and video chats. My sister is my best friend -- and her kids and my kids are close in age. It's been three years and it's very difficult to not be able to see her as much as I used to. Her absence is especially felt during the holidays.

During this time, I got divorced. 

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The first Thanksgiving after all these changes included my ex-husband, my kids, and my parents all together at the dinner table. Noticeably absent was my sister and her family, along with the love between my ex and me. We wanted to maintain a family vibe, so we put on brave faces for the kids and ate our turkey together. I'll be honest -- it felt sad. Something needed to change in some way, at least for the next year. All I felt at that table when I was supposed to be giving thanks was the emptiness of what I had lost. 

The next year, I had planned on hosting it at my house, thinking that the change of venue would help. But a massive New York snowstorm knocked out my power the night before and into Thanksgiving and even the day after. Thanksgiving took on a different form with a last-minute venue change and eating at 8 p.m.  

The following year, my ex took the kids to visit their grandparents in Alabama. Knowing my kids wouldn't be there, I accepted an invitation for my parents and me to spend the holiday at my friend's house. She and her family had a large family-and-friends gathering every year. Being at another gathering for the first time really taught me something.

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I mean it when I say it showed me the true meaning of being thankful.

Sometimes our "big plans" don't work out and nothing is perfect, but we roll with it and make do, and evolve and change.

While my physical place of where I had these traditions and holidays changed, the feeling in my heart did not. The sentiment remained -- each Thanksgiving I was thankful. My heart, though weathered and tested, still beat with happiness and gratitude. I am open to those changes. There doesn't have to be a set table and place every Thanksgiving to make it feel right. And no matter where in the world my sister is, or my children are, they are in my heart, and I remain thankful for all that I do have. That includes my ex-husband, who helped me have our two incredible kids, and with whom I co-parent so very well. 

We have abandoned our tradition of the same tradition so much so this year that we aren't even sure what our Thanksgiving plans are yet. But we do know this: Gratitude is always in season.

 

Image via iStock.com/tatyana_tomsickova

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