When I moved to New York, the balloons for the Macy's Day Parade were set up down the street from me. I loved the crowds that would gather to see them for two days beforehand, the same crowds that most New Yorkers loathed. I would wake up at the crack of dawn in order to visit the bodega to buy snacks and coffee, then plant myself on the curb to watch the parade. Even though I had no place to go for the actual meal, I felt like I had celebrated by taking part in a proud tradition.
Two years ago, my boyfriend Alex and I went up to Canada for Thanksgiving weekend. I didn't score a big meal, but I bagged myself a fiancé. We had a great engagement party, and I will forever equate Thanksgiving with the love and joy that my husband brings to my life. Last year, we went to my husband's step-father's daughter's house in Connecticut for Thanksgiving. It was my first Thanksgiving celebrated with family, and I finally experienced firsthand what all the hoopla is about.
But this year, I am not feeling so excited about Thanksgiving. We are headed down to Houston to spend the holiday with Alex's step-parents and 25 other family members. The thing is, I feel out of place, and not because I am Canadian. Part of it is that the family is so big. I feel like I get lost in the shuffle. No one seems to have time to talk to me, and come to think of it, they never really have. I feel like I am nothing more than an appendage of my husband, and it makes for a very lonely meal amongst 25+ people.
I know that another part of Thanksgiving is staying with family. But a foreign home poses great challenges for a family with young children. How is Aiven supposed to nap with a house full of loud voices? How is he going to run around when nothing is child proofed? We appreciate the hospitality, but what I would really be thankful for is a babysitter so I can eat during the meal, or at least just breathe.
After Thanksgiving, we are staying in Houston for a couple of days so Alex can catch up with old friends. This is also causing me anxiety because whenever we get together with his high school friends I really can't reminisce with them about the good ol' days. I always try to befriend my husband's friends, but I feel that some of them see me as an intruder. Alex says it's because they are still nerds at heart and don't know how to behave around women, nor kids for that matter. He tells me I shouldn't take it personally, but it's hard not to.
Thanksgiving is my husband's favorite holiday, and I want to help make it special for him. For Alex, Thanksgiving is a time to bond with family and an opportunity to take account of one's life and express gratefulness for one's blessings. And yet, as much as people have bemoaned the commercialization of Christmas, I think the same has happened to Thanksgiving. Families and friends may be gathering for Thanksgiving, but if they are not connecting at a deep emotional or spiritual level, I hardly see the point. Are families having conversations with each other, or are they clustered around the TV? Are the kids upstairs and the adults downstairs, or is everyone playing games together? Is each person around the table asked what they are thankful for, or are we just mindlessly stuffing our faces?
I want my husband to be right. I want this holiday to be special. I want to feel at home in someone else's home and feel like family in someone else's family. I know Alex's family and friends have their hearts in the right place, and I need to remember to keep mine in the right place, too. This Thanksgiving, I'm probably not the only one who needs to be reminded to focus on being thankful for what we have rather than dwelling on what we don't. That being said...anyone know of a good babysitter in Houston?