After 41 years of Thanksgivings, I feel I have much to be grateful for, including the many fond memories I have of family traditions.
However, as is sometimes the case, I can't claim to have spent all 41 of those Thanksgivings with my entire family.
My first Thanksgiving away from home was in 1994. I had graduated from college and was living in a small suburb of Boston called Sharon. I was the live-in nanny to a family of three where I was in charge of their 18 month old daughter, Elise.
The father's parents flew in from Chicago and turned out to be quite friendly and very down to earth. I remember thinking how nice it was that I wasn't the only one from the Midwest. Among other things, we discussed movies since they belonged to some sort of a film club.
The mother's parents drove in from Rhode Island, and I had met them previously when I stayed at their McMansion while we moved from our house in Brookline to Sharon. They were okay, but not as personable as the Midwesterners (but then maybe that's my personal bias speaking).
We had a fancy Thanksgiving dinner with appetizers I had never had before - like melted brie. Yummy! I also seem to recall having Matzo Ball soup since half the family was Jewish. That was also quite delightful. In spite of their economic wealth, they had cranberries out of the can just like the rest of us. I remember one of the younger brothers saying it wasn't authentic without the ridges!
Of course I was homesick and remember talking to my parents on the phone long distance that morning, but I made it through the day without too many tears. It probably helped that there were about 18 different kinds of desserts, many of which I ate for weeks afterwards until I was literally scraping off the mold (sad I know, but I really have a sweet tooth!).
Four years later I living in England and was serving up my first Thanksgiving dinner to my British in-laws whom we had invited over to help us celebrate. I don't remember any major mishaps, so I guess we did okay with not over or under cooking anything. Of course we didn't actually celebrate on the day since I had to work, so we postponed until the weekend. Like four years previous, I was a bit homesick and called home late in the day on Thursday. As there was now a grandchild in the family, she seemed to more than take my place since much fuss was made over her. I suppose this was inevitable, but it didn't exactly help my homesickness.
Living overseas I missed a few more Thanksgivings, but it got easier with time. My husband and I certainly got better at preparing an elaborate meal for his parents, a skill which has come in handy now that I host our annual Christmas eve dinner.