This is the first Thanksgiving I have spent alone in 29 years.

Thanksgiving when I was growing up was a quiet family affair.  Mother would cook a turkey, Daddy would make mashed potatoes, Mother would make gravy.  The vegetables were an afterthought.  Mother would make piecrusts and Daddy would make pies.  Sounds so equitable, doesn’t it?  We would have an early dinner, in our usual fashion, on our little low tables in  the living room.  Daddy would make a fire.  Football would be on the TV.  Every so often, one of our parents’ maiden lady friends would come over.  I don’t really recall it, but there are pictures as evidence, that one year E-Bro and I did some sort of little pageant for Doralyn and Damon.  Generally, it was just a cozy, loving relaxed time.  Very nice memories.  Warm and safe.

The first and, up until now, only Thanksgiving I ever spent alone was my first one away from home when I was 18.   Money was tight, so I decided to stay in Boston for the holiday.  I didn’t think it would be a big deal, as I had never found Thanksgiving to be a big deal.  As I wrote above, it was just a quiet holiday.  Because they closed the dorms, I was going to stay at my boyfriend’s apartment, even though he was going home to Pittsburgh. Well, we wound up breaking up shortly before Thanksgiving, but agreed that I could still stay in the apartment because he wouldn’t be there anyway.  I was really devastated by this break-up, even though we weren’t very serious, and so staying in his place was not a good idea.  I had bought myself some champagne and roses, woke up and watched the parades and drank champagne and cried.  A tradition was born.  (I also ate port wine cheese and crackers, but left that out of future reenactments of the tradition.)  I was miserable.  In the early afternoon, I pulled myself together and went to the movies to see My Brilliant Career.  It cheered me up a bit.  But then I went to Store 24 to buy myself a TV turkey dinner, and the East Indian man at the counter felt so sorry for me that he invited me to have Thanksgiving dinner with him and his family.  That was the nail in my feeling-better coffin.  I went back to the apartment, cooked my TV dinner – this was back when they came in the little three-compartment metallic trays – cried my way through dinner and the obligatory Christmas TV shows and went to bed early.  I was awfully glad that day was over.

The next Thanksgiving, I went home with my friend Elsa and spent the holiday at her house in Billerica.  I don’t recall it very well, but I remember woods, and that it was nice to be with a family, even if it wasn’t my own.

After that, I was in Boulder.  My Dad started what became a wonderful tradition.  He would come out to see me, all by himself, for Thanksgiving.  E-Bro would typically go home to see my Mother, although she spent a few Thanksgivings happily alone.  Thanksgivings with my father added to our already-close relationship.  He would usually stay at the University Inn, since I never lived anywhere large enough to have company.  We talked about everything under the sun. 

The first year, I didn’t have a kitchen, so after struggling to locate an open restaurant, we found ourselves having Thanksgiving dinner in a basement Chinese restaurant on the Pearl Street Mall.

For our second Thanksgiving, I cooked my first turkey.  I was living in my cold little upstairs apartment with the red shag carpeting that climbed the walls and the turquoise-tiled bathroom with the claw foot tub.  And the mice and faulty gas heater.  We ate on the floor, using a trunk covered with a lace shawl as our dining table.  I must have called my Mother ten times for turkey cooking advice.  He was so proud to have been there for my first bird.  It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t bad.

Subsequent Thanksgivings were with Pat, but my Dad still came out.  We ate at the Red Lion the first year, and cooked in our triplex for the next two years, usually having CJ and Debbie for company.  As neurotic as Debbie was, my Dad was quite fond of her.  I believe Pat and I went back to North Carolina for one Thanksgiving, just after we got engaged. 

After that, almost everything Thanksgiving was spent at my brother-in-law/sister-in-law’s house, with their girls and friends.  It was always very nice, even though it was a larger crowd than I was generally comfortable with.  My Mother came with my Dad for a couple of Thanksgivings, and  Once my parents reached a certain age, though, they both stayed in Durham for Thanksgiving.  That’s when the champagne-parade-tears tradition started.  And so it continues.

Last year, I had just moved into the cottage.  I had company, a leg of lamb, my tearful tradition, and a nice day.  This year, it is just me.  Pat’s family has invited me to share their Thanksgiving, saying it’s not the same without me.  Of course it’s not – and that’s the whole point.  If I wanted it to be the same, I’d have stayed married.  I need to separate myself from that level of family, though certainly not from Kelsea.  I need to find my own family, whether that’s in my relationship with a lover, myself , or perhaps both.

It is time to find a new tradition.