In the early years, we never got much vacation to ourselves. Family travel and events chewed up every available day of discretionary leave. Understanding the clock hanging over the heads of our aging parents, we’d suck it up and dutifully hit the road – especially over the winter holidays.
Alternating the Christmas event between respective parental households, we’d either drive 1,000 miles to Florida to spend a week with his parents, or we’d enjoy a quiet morning rising from our own beds and then haul children, food and presents down to the Trailer Park for the annual flea market and freak show for the rest of the day.
It was the Trailer Park Lifestyle, however, that eventually gave us just one holiday for our own little clan. With all of the divorces in my family, Thanksgiving was a nightmare.
My sister and brother were often stuck with complex “prisoner exchange” situations, moving their children from one place to another – while attempting to satisfy the familial requirements of the “spouse du jour”. If they didn’t show up for at least three meals during the day? Someone was going to be cranky.
Chaotic, at best. Explosive, on at least one occasion. We’d generally return home feeling battered – and bitter.
The solution? The Trailer Park adopted a “time-shift”, moving the group gathering to the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We took turns hosting the meal, it was generally “pot luck” style, and it worked well for many years.
Miracle of miracles, this now allowed for my family of four to create our own tradition. Given that my ex-husband and i are dirty hippies share “non-traditional” tendencies, we decided “pizza, beer and football – in pajamas” would be the order of the day. Oh, and we were ridiculously fucking thankful for all of these things*.
The kids were still in elementary school, and i think they both took some sort of perverse pleasure in letting their friends and teachers know that we ate pizza instead of turkey and trimmings. Not just any pizza, but home made – from hand-tossed crusts, to customized toppings. One of the few culinary activities i could handle…
On occasion i’d pick up a stray from the office. Typically single male engineers, away from family and not planning to brave the highways for a taste of Mom’s gravy**. Rather than surprise them with the meal, i’d warn them first. “Pizza, beer, football. Pajamas optional.”
This year, my adult children were at my place for Thanksgiving – and wanted to do it again. The “gourmet pizza buffet” was on… The kids and i were joined by two of my close friends, and a slew of their own for perhaps our best Thanksgiving yet.
i stumbled through a 5 mile “Turkey Trot” in the morning, then slept for a couple hours. The Boy just slept til noon. The Girl joined her boyfriend’s extended family for a more traditional meal in the early afternoon. Somewhere around 8:00 pm? It just came together…
Laid back. No formal “seating”, we grazed. Shared nibbles of unique pizzas, lovingly crafted to our own tastes***. Alcohol may have been involved. Billiards and music happened. Talking smack. Messing with each other. Tripping over a big brown dog, awash with canine joy for all the attention and floor scraps.
It was damn near perfect…
* Not just the opportunity to avoid dealing with The Trailer Park.
** Absolutely not, under any circumstances, a euphemism…
*** There was enough meat on The Boy’s pizza to feed a cannibal army. Must have hit his stomach like a brick.