Since moving to California, our holidays back east alternate between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year, turkey day was spent in good ole Cali, far from the arms of our loved ones (and my Nanny's traditional stuffing).
It's not always easy being "alone" on holidays; but that was the beauty of this year. We weren't. We've come a long way from that very first Thanksgiving here, where only three months after settling in, we spent the day fighting back tears at a distant (but very welcoming) relative's house--watching the closeness of their family and their traditions only reminded us more of what we were missing.
Fast forward four years, and our stay-cation holiday was one of the most interesting non-family celebrations we've ever had. We started out the day watching the Macy*s Thanksgiving Parade as always, my daughter going ballistic over the Beetlejuice performance (which I have to say, was brilliant!) and us wondering what half the new balloons were. Pajamas until noon, with no cooking or baking. Ahhhhh. Heaven.
We then finally prepared ourselves for our nomadic day in the rain. Between the weather and the missing home, I think we would have loved a stay-at-home-do-nothing-jammy-day, but I made promises and I thought it would be good for us to keep them and be around other people.
We started out with a quick stopover at our relatives, which gratefully had some turkey, stuffing and this kickass sweet potato dish for me to enjoy. See, my pain in the ass kids don't eat any Thanksgiving food, except for rolls and green beans (Yes, seriously. Green beans but not anything else. I figure they are some kind of aliens). So, needless to say, I was happy to appetize on some home cooked dinner before heading out for a commercialized meal at Coco's Bakery.
Ah, yes, nothing says holidays like the festive dinner that never was, since they literally ran out of turkey, most vegetables, rolls, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie (all before 4:00pm; how does that happen? Did someone not get the memo that it was Thanksgiving? Is there a turkey shortage in California?) But at least my children enjoyed their chicken fingers and hamburger with fries. *insert eye roll*
The upside of that was we got to spend dinner with a close family friend of ours--hell, I can't call them just friends; they are actually family. Friends are the family we choose, after all. Just as relative-less as we were, banding together made the holiday a little sweeter, and the blow over our disappointing non-turkey dinner funnier. Laughter can make any situation better! Aside from the food mishap, we enjoyed spending time with some of our most favorite people in the world.
We then traveled on to our final stop: a newer friend's house who enticed us into coming with promises of bingo and giant jenga. Normally, I feel weird accepting invites from others because I feel like even though the invitation was kind, I'd be intruding if I actually showed up. On top of that, I am not big into games, though I will admit I do like bingo since it's not a board game. But once my kids heard there would be games, those little homebodies surprised me by begging me to take them there. Usually, they don't want to go anywhere!
I almost didn't go. I was tired, not feeling well and disappointed. But I forced my butt out the door again, and am I so glad I did. From the moment we stepped inside the house, it was warm and welcoming. I expected that normal awkwardness from not knowing anyone but the host, and the other guests being into each other, but it was the exact opposite: they were some of the nicest people ever! Instantly, we formed bonds and got right to playing games. All three of us were comfortable and happy--trust me when I say that it can be a feat finding a place where we all are satisfied.
Each of the kids won a few rounds of bingo and earned some scratch offs (and of course, my son the money man won a few bucks!). Me? I didn't win a single round, and not only that, I am the first person in the creation of giant jenga to lose on her second turn, taking a perfectly built structure down with me. I won a prize for being the biggest loser of the night :)
It was the perfect ending to an unusual day. It didn't feel like a traditional Thanksgiving, but it certainly had me counting my blessings by the end of the evening. I didn't have the meal I wanted, but I was lucky enough to have food and be surrounded by people I loved. I wasn't with my extended family, but I experienced the joys of friendship and camaraderie instead of moping on a couch. On top of it all, I didn't have to cook or clean a single thing; a few easy pies the night before set me up for thanking my gracious hosts.
It was a Happy Friends-giving indeed.