I have a varied history with Thanksgiving. As a child, my memories of Thanksgiving generally include too many family members stuffed in my grandparents’ two-bedroom apartment with the smell of cigarette smoke lingering and the television blaring. At the end, I’d be forced to eat a meal that I didn’t really like, then shunted off to bed while the grown-ups stayed up and talked late into the night.
I’m sure that’s not how we spent every Thanksgiving. It’s just those Thanksgivings are the ones I remember.
My grandparents are gone now. After they passed, so did our big family holidays. As an adult, I’ve tried a variety of different ways to celebrate Thanksgiving on my own terms. Since my husband did not grow up in the United States, he has no Thanksgiving traditions to rely on. So we’ve made our own. We’ve spent several Thanksgivings with dear friends, who created the traditional feast and treated us like family. We’ve gone out to dinner at local restaurants. And we’ve had very nontraditional Thanksgivings.
Over the years, I’ve concluded that Thanksgiving isn’t really about turkey. It’s about being with the people you love. When it’s just the two of us (or now just the four of us), we find spending the day cooking a huge meal isn’t particularly satisfying. Traditional Thanksgiving food also doesn’t appeal much to me, with the exception of pumpkin pie. So we usually end up doing Thanksgiving our way.
This year we decided to go the nontraditional route again. We went to the zoo. Yeah, it’s open. They have to feed the animals anyway, so they might as well open up for people looking to do something different on Thanksgiving.
The funny thing is when we told people what we were doing for Thanksgiving, we got a lot of very funny reactions. Mostly horror and shock. I didn’t think it was that odd, personally. In fact, there were at least several dozen people who celebrated Thanksgiving with us at the zoo. They were doing just what we were doing. Spending time with the people they loved.
See, it’s not weird at all.