Thanksgiving used to just be an excuse for my strongly Quaker self to get into fights with my strongly Baptist uncle and strongly Catholic grandmother on my father’s side. One Thanksgiving a couple years back, my parents decided they weren’t going to subject themselves to a terrible time on what is supposed to be a fun holiday, so we stopped going to dinner with our extended family. Ever since, my family has opted to stay home and have dinner with our small group. Occasionally, we will have one or two more people over, but it’s usually not very special.
This year was different. We’re going to be away for Christmas this year, so my grandparents on my mother’s side wanted to have family Christmas together. We decided to have Christmas on Thanksgiving. And this year, my girlfriend came home with me for the break for the first time.
Pressure turned all the way up; I went into the holiday break more than a little bit stressed. Almost immediately after arriving home, that stress was washed away in the familial bombast of the Miller household. Anxiety gave way in a tidal wave of loving words (mixed with profanity) and the kind of comfort that can only be described as being truly home.
Our little misplaced Christmas went off without a hitch. The gifts were perfect: hand crafted ornaments, heartfelt cards and tiny trinkets representing inside jokes populated the space under the tree. They weren’t particularly nice or expensive, but they were personal and heartfelt. It was one of the best Christmases I’ve ever had. It’s imperfections made it perfect.
As for my worries about my girlfriend clicking well with my family, by the end of the break I was pretty sure my mother loved her more than she loved me. It seemed almost like a welcome-to-the-family party.
“She’s perfect,” said my grandmother. “I couldn’t have picked someone better if I had done it myself.”
It didn’t feel like my girlfriend’s first holiday with her boyfriend. It felt like she was just home for a weird Thanksmas, along for the ride, like the rest of us.
The holidays can be an intensely difficult time for people – myself included. That’s why this Thanksgiving was such a pleasant surprise.
There was no social obligation or uncomfortable ritual to conform to. It was just my family, celebrating something much bigger than ourselves.