I never really appreciated Thanksgiving.  I’ve always been a bigger fan of Christmas and Halloween.  Thanksgiving has always been nice, but I don’t think I ever figured it out.

Thanksgiving, in my mind, has always mostly been the unofficial gateway to Christmas — the time to break out the Christmas sweaters and holiday music.  The time to start decorating and counting down the days until Christmas.  It’s the first day that it’s socially acceptable to wish someone a happy holiday, the first day Christmas lights would start popping up all around.  For that, I’ve always loved Thanksgiving.

Other than that, my favorite thing about Thanksgiving was spending the day with my family.  The bountiful feast is fun, but it was the company of my family I enjoyed most of all.  In a family whose members rarely worked typical business hours, a shared day off for all of us was a very rare thing, and that was what I always liked best — spending the day together.  No matter how crazy all of our schedules were, we would all have at least some part of Thanksgiving off from work, and we would get to be together.

This will be my third year not being home for Thanksgiving, and (like so many other things) being away from it for so long has finally helped me realize how important it is.  I miss the traditions — the cooking, the favorite dishes, the football game.  But mostly, I miss the together time.  I miss the time with my family.  I miss the shared decision to take a collective pause in our over busy lives to spend the day together.  To cook together, to pass down traditions, to visit, to share, just to be together.

That is what I hadn’t really figured out about it before.  I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about it, but, other than as is stated in the name (a day to reflect and be thankful for what we have), I hadn’t ever really figured out what the day is all supposed to be about.  But, now I know.  It isn’t about the meal.  I don’t think it’s even about being thankful for WHAT we have.  It is about being together — about being thankful for WHO we have.

Christmas shares that purpose, a little.  We take time to be together on Christmas, too.  But while Christmas is also about being together, our attention is divided — shopping, gifts, decorating AND cooking.  Thanksgiving, having less fanfare, lets us spend our energy appreciating our company, allows us to be grateful that we are together.  Whatever meal we share, however grand or simple, we share it together, with the people we love the most.

I miss it.  I miss planning the meal with my mom.  I miss Thanksgiving breakfast with my dad.  I miss sitting with my brothers while they watch football.  I miss “helping” with the cooking with my mom and sister (and always suspecting I was causing more trouble than anything).  I miss the conversations and the debates we’d all get into during or after the meal.  I miss it all.  I didn’t get it before.  I didn’t appreciate any of those things enough.  Spending the past 3 years without a Thanksgiving has, surprisingly, transformed into one of my favorite holidays.

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