Thanksgiving is just a week away, and for the third year in a row, I will be away from my geographical home for the holidays (granted last year I was able to go home Tuesday and Wednesday, but I spent most of actual thanksgiving in an airport Chili’s, missing both my family Thanksgiving and my roommate Thanksgiving). This year I am willingly staying in New York, and the Momma is coming up on Thanksgiving Day, so I’m looking for the best way to celebrate.
Thanksgiving, for me, takes three basic forms. One, the traditional family meal, surrounded by aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Two, Friendsgiving, a pre-Thanksgiving dinner/supper replete with turkey, potatoes, pie and all the fixin’s. You gather your friends for a celebration of making it another year in the city and still not wanting to kill each other. Success. And then there’s three, the orphans’ Thanksgiving, occurring on actual Thanksgiving. Round up everyone who doesn’t have another place to go — who doesn’t have the time, the money, or both to make a short trip home to their families — and eat, drink, and give thanks together.
For the past two years, I have participated in Thanksgiving type number two. My grad school friends and I would come together for a long afternoon of eating, drinking and watching football. Katie would host, Vanessa would bake, and Carl would wear his special turkey carving shirt (so designated because he wore it two years in a row for the event in question). These were my first friends (outside of the ones I moved here with) in the city, and it felt right to celebrate with them, being thankful for them — even in the basement room of Katie’s Brooklyn apartment, sitting on mismatched chairs too short for the table. This year, however, due to vacations schedules, new jobs, and new apartments, we’re not having our traditional celebration, and it sucks to see even the newest traditions fall by the wayside. I suppose there’s always next year.
As for number three, people have been gathering their family-less friends for makeshift Thanksgiving celebrations since who knows when; last year I was supposed to host this type of event with my roommates, but was stuck in the aforementioned airport Chili’s (a Friendsgiving of its own kind I guess…perhaps “Strangersgiving” or “Stranded-Fellow-Passenger-Giving”). Having missed last year’s fête, I’m quite excited for this year’s.
I’ve never had that many Thanksgiving traditions. Growing up, I split the holiday between my parents — one year with mom, one with dad — switching between Louisville, Chicago, Middlesboro, and Myrtle Beach. So I never really had a hard and fast routine for Thanksgiving (my Christmas traditions were pried from my holly jolly fingers, however— a story for another time). Every five years or so, the stars would align and both of my Thanksgivings would be in Louisville. I’d eat supper (for us, a 2:00 p.m. feast, so we were done in time for late afternoon football) with my Mom’s family, and then dinner (later, between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m.) with my Dad’s family. I’d stuff myself with rolls and turkey and more potatoes than is probably advisable. But the thing that made Thanksgiving Thanksgiving for me was always the table. Part of it was the food, but a larger part was the conversation: the beers sipped long after the meal is done, the laughter from inside jokes, the basketball analysis, the general ridiculousness. Which is why I think it’s so easy for me to transfer Thanksgiving to different places. As far as I’m concerned, as long as you’re well fed and the conversation is flowing (and there are ample amounts of potatoes), you really can’t screw it up.
It’s a good thing my Thanksgiving spirit is on the flexible side, because this time of year is especially hard in the industry I work in. Tourism in New York is at its high during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I take Thanksgiving Day as the one final breath before the holiday onslaught. New York during the holidays is beautiful, magical. The sidewalks are glistening and carols stream out of every store. But the glow fades quickly when you have to push your way into work every morning through the cold, amid throngs of bodies lost on the street: In this city, sometimes it’s hard to remember that the holidays are all about goodwill towards your fellow humans. But this is why I appreciate Thanksgiving. We get to take a second and remember, “Okay, this is what it’s about: Love the ones you’re with, and the ones you’re without.” It’s important to remind ourselves that we’re lucky, especially when so much of living in New York is spent lamenting this, that, or the other.
This year, my mom and I will be dining with fellow Southerners and general purveyors of awesome Jason and Sarah. And we’re planning to do it up right, vegetarian style (per the aforementioned hosts’ dietary restrictions). These are two of my favorite people in the city, maybe the world, so bring on the tofu! Our number may be small, but our table will be plentiful, and our appreciation for each other overfloweth. After dinner, we’ll head to The Sampler for beers and potluck desserts, my favorite people and my favorite place, and a good reminder that not everything is terrible all the time.
This Orphans’ Thanksgiving is especially appropriate this year, as I fall into a slightly more adult (gasp!) life here in the city. I think the thing I’m most thankful for in my New York life is the somehow sizable friend group I have amassed since moving here three years ago. A group that started as the three people who lived in my apartment with me has grown exponentially, spreading out across the city and into many industries. My friends are what make living here bearable, even enjoyable. They are what drive me to keep pushing, keep trying, keep swimming. They are the family I have in this home away from home.
I’m thankful for them.