As long as I can remember, I’ve loved fall. The weather turns cooler (though not REALLY in Southern California). The leaves turn colors (again, not REALLY in Southern California). In Nashville, we get fall! Holden came home from the hospital on the first day of fall last year. Plus, candy corn is available again. I love candy corn. I really, really do. It’s like my version of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, guys… (Yeah, I still say guys and not y’all. Deal with it.)
But the real reason I love fall is Thanksgiving. It’s definitely my favorite holiday, and my mom has hosted it since I was a baby. It’s the one day of the year that my whole, giant, spread out, crazy family comes together, crams into my parents dining room, and has a meal that is (somewhat) drama-free. It’s also the time of the year that I reflect the most—thinking of all of the things that I’m grateful for, thankful for. Something happens in the fall—it’s in the air regardless of the actual temperature. It’s pensive and a little brooding, and for me? It all culminates with the Thanksgiving meal.
Some of my favorite memories from when I was little involve getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner. My sister and I would start prepping days before: deciding which table cloths would go on which tables, who was going to get the Pilgrim-turkey salt and pepper shakers, and making napkin rings out of twigs (Pre-Pinterest, y’all! Look! I said, y’all!). The morning of—starting at 9 am—like clockwork, my dad would prep the turkey, and my mom would run around like said turkey with it’s head cut off organizing everything else. I would make the cranberry sauce, my sister would make the green bean casserole, and together, we would make my mom’s famous stuffing (and sneak bites of it before it was cooked). To this day, I seriously love uncooked stuffing… It’s basically croutons, right?
When we got old enough, Bloody Marys joined the morning routine (which also included lots of kitchen karaoke and getting yelled at for eating uncooked stuffing). It was always loud, always messy, and always fun. Inevitably, some relative would show up early and my mother would still be in her apron, covered in gravy, swearing at my sister and me (who had somehow snuck off and changed) and at my dad (who was pouring wine and tequila shots—don’t ask—for the earlycomers).
As chaotic as the day had begun, as soon as all 30ish people had arrived and taken their places at the tables, everything calmed down. Like I said before, Thanksgiving is the one holiday where my whole family comes together. All.Of.Us. My grandmother, my great uncle, and all the cousins. All of my dad’s siblings, their kids, and their kids’ kids. My mother’s sister and her family. All of us. Together. No work drama. No life drama. Just one big, happy, crazy, hungry family sitting together around the table.
We have a tradition that every year we go around the table and say what we’re thankful for. We’ve done it since before I could speak. When I was younger, it wasn’t something I put a lot of thought into. “I’m thankful for… my friends…. my house… good grades…” But over the years, it’s become something I think on and put a lot of effort into beforehand. That’s especially true now, as I see my life through the eyes of a parent. Last year was my first Thanksgiving living away from my family, and also Holden’s first Thanksgiving. We flew to California when he was only 10 weeks old and took part in the traditions: setting the tables, cranberry sauce, and (of course) uncooked stuffing and Bloody Marys. I was thankful then for a healthy child, a loving husband, and the ability to spend time with my family.
This year, we’ll do the same but with an almost-toddler in tow. I’ve already started thinking of all of the things I’m grateful for in life. The list is long, and in no particular order includes: a roof over our heads (even if it’s not our roof), a growing network of community here in Nashville, our friends back home, health, happiness, our amazing family, and (of course!) Thanksgiving dinner.