Thanksgiving in Paradise

Let me just start out by saying that, for me, Thanksgiving is all about tradition. I’m not usually one to care about repetition and regularity, but Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays, is my exception. My family has hosted turkey day in our house for as long as I can remember. My mom spends three days cooking enough food for an army (I do attempt to help when she’ll let me), and my grandma, cousins, aunts and uncles on my mom’s side come and hang out at my house. Even my grandparents on my dad’s side, who live in Florida, make the trip up north each year to be with us on Thanksgiving.

My sister and I religiously watch the parade together every Thanksgiving morning, my cousins and I spend the entire day laughing together, my mom generally makes the same recipes every year (mostly because everyone has a particular favorite, and they would freak out if it wasn’t in the lineup), and my whole family sits at the table for a solid 3-4 hours just enjoying having everyone together. The best—and possibly strangest—Thanksgiving tradition is that we usually end the day with my entire family playing Wii Fit, so that we at least feel somewhat OK about the mountains of food we’ve consumed. Something about having the consistency of those traditions each year makes me love Thanksgiving even more.

That said… This year was very different for me. My mom called me the week before Thanksgiving break began, and said, “Hey, V… How do you feel about driving down to Florida for Thanksgiving?” At first I thought she was messing with me, but she was totally serious. My dad’s parents had decided they couldn’t travel to Virginia this year, so my mom, after talking to us, chose to change things up and travel down south for the holiday. At three in the morning on my first day of Thanksgiving break, I met up with my family, and we drove 17 hours down to Florida, turkey in tow.

Turns out, it’s not really easy to make Thanksgiving dinner when you’re not in your own house. My mom, who still had to cook everything because my grandmother doesn’t cook much anymore, didn’t know where anything in the kitchen was, so we were constantly wandering around the kitchen, dazed and confused, searching for things like spatulas and oven mitts. Random things that are always in stock at my house were missing from my grandma’s kitchen, so we had to make about 10 runs to the grocery store. The menu kind of evolved as the day went on due to lack of ingredients and time. My sister and I tried to help as much as possible, but we were just as lost as my mom. Eventually, when I almost used Bisquick instead of flour in the dessert I was making because both ingredients were in identical containers, my mom and I just had to sit down and laugh.

It was completely different from any other Thanksgiving I can remember, but somehow all of the food ended up on the table. Everything was delicious, and, even though it was my first Thanksgiving without any cousins, it was still a really fun day. I’ve gotta say, the strangest part about spending my Thanksgiving in Florida was the temperature. It was 80 degrees! Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not complaining. This southern girl desperately needed some sunshine, and I came back home completely rejuvenated after some time outside. However… It was really bizarre to see people hanging Christmas lights on palm trees and to listen to Christmas music in the car with the windows rolled down. We even spent Black Friday on the beach… So we changed the name to “Tan Friday.”

Overall, I had a great Thanksgiving break. Sure, almost all of my traditions were broken, but the point of Thanksgiving isn’t really about tradition, even though that’s sometimes what I turn it into. It’s about being with people who care about you and honestly giving thanks for the opportunities you’ve been blessed with. I am really thankful that my mom decided to make the trip and we got to be with my grandparents for Thanksgiving. I know how happy it made them to see us pull in their driveway, and that made it worth it. Plus, I got to spend my break on a beach instead of wrapped up in a scarf in Virginia! Who could complain about that? But next year, I will totally be back in my own house, and all of the traditions will be reestablished. Just saying.

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