Defining Family Over the Holidays

For some, family means the people they see in the morning when they come down for breakfast, the parent who works whenever they’re home but leaves notes on the kitchen table, people thousands of miles away, family friends they see on the holidays, or friends they see at school. No matter how large or small, Thanksgiving is a time when family gathers. Whether that means flying across the country or staying at home, whether that means your aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, 2nd cousins, or “how are you related to me”s, from miles away gather, or its just means your close family and you, or its a group of friends, people surround themselves with the family they choose.

Thanksgiving in my family has transformed as the years have gone by. In the beginning it was a time in which my dad’s side of the family would gather, and I would see my cousins and aunts and uncles who lived miles away. That faded away as we moved from New York to Massachusetts and transformed into a trip down to Cape Cod to visit family friends. This tradition has stayed strong throughout most of middle school and high school, save one year due to flood damage, and my stepdad has diligently made his root gratin for the feast each since he join the family.

This Thanksgiving was the first in years during which my family stayed home. Normally we would make the trek down to Cape Cod to join a strange and ever changing collage made of family friends, elusive academics, and locals orchestrated by two very close family friends. All 20 (that is an estimate) of us would gather around table collage made up of card tables, a dining table, and a glass outdoor table and would eat our fill of turkey, stuffing, and more, provided by the group which sits around said table. Conversations of travels, family, and sometimes parental espionage would proceed to buzz around the room. After they filled their first stomach, people would the move upstairs to a dessert buffet fit for a professional bakery (but still provided by the same people), and would settle in to deeper conversations before the night comes to a close.

This year, rather than moving slowly down route 3, we stayed home and had a closer Thanksgiving made up of my mom, sister, step dad, and step grandmother. My aunt and cousins were in Paris, my grandfather had a friends-giving in Santa Fe as he and his friends took over the Tesuque market, a endeared local food stop, and the Cape Cod conglomeration kept going. Although my gathering on Turkey day was filled by just five, this Thanksgiving has only served to point out how large my family is. That Saturday, 48 hours after the thankful day, we had a joint family dinner between us and family friends. They are so close that I refer to the adults as Aunt and Uncle and am continually unsettled by their kids who seem to have grown from 6 to 12 in seconds. This dinner occurred after we lunched with more recent additions to the family friend roster. Even though we did not join the giant mishmash of people in the Cape or call the extended family to the east cost, the weekend was still filled with a staggering amount of family. The family I did see are, in some respects, just as close.

The family you choose to be with can change based on the year, the amount of money you have in the bank, the political climate, or any new relationships, but each form of family brings a new element to the table. The choice might mean tense conversations around the dinner table in which you tip toe around political issues. It might mean precarious and passionate conversations diving headfirst into the pit. It might mean you spend parts of Thanksgiving wishing you were thousands of miles away with your family or with your friends. It might cause you to smile ear to ear because even your grandmother has changed the radio station she listens to in light of recent events. Each year we chose which family we spend our time with. Whether frustrating or heartwarming, the family we see during Thanksgiving break, close or non related, remind us about our properties and connect us to something larger than our selves.