Thanksgiving in my house was never a family affair. Sure, my family prepared the meal and set up the home environment, but it was never just family for dinner.
The tradition of inviting friends for dinner started back when I was in preschool. Somehow, through conversation with my friend’s parents, my parents discovered that they had no family in town. So, they insisted that the family join us for dinner. We had a blast, because we children were able to play with our friend, and the adults could enjoy each others’ company.
For years after that, I can remember various families spending holidays with us. We opened up our small home to include anyone who had nowhere else to go. In that way, our family expanded to include many new “relations.” Some of those people are still around, and others have drifted away.
Even through adulthood, those traditions have continued. When my sister and I first bought our house, we were 400 miles away from our parents. They couldn’t always make the trip out here, and work often prevented us from heading home until Christmas. We befriended neighbors and started inviting local friends who had no family in town. I still remember the first dinner I had to make. I was terrified to try to make a turkey, so we had my oven fried chicken and vegetables, instead!
The last few years, I have made an extra effort to go home for the Thanksgiving holiday. My grandmother was aging, and I wanted to spend every last moment with her that I could. We would often trek up to her assisted living home, where the staff would prepare a lovely Thanksgiving meal for the residents and their families. We would see family there, and spent time with family friends also at the home. We also shared Thanksgiving greetings with other residents who had nowhere to go, and no one to visit. My grandmother passed away a couple of months ago, but the tradition of sharing thanks with everyone, friends and family alike, will still continue.