For most of us, this is a day that oozes tradition. Maybe it’s that epic day of the year when we cram our family in the car and drive the two-plus hours to our cousin’s house to spend a single afternoon overeating and watching the kids play touch football in the yard. Or maybe it’s the day when we’re the ones busting out the “special” china, and stringing folding tables and chairs together all over the dining room, and anxiously waiting for the house to fill up with family and laughter.
Whether we’re hosting or we’re the guest, it’s still a day when most of us (the lucky ones anyway) get to surround ourselves with the people who matter the most and do nothing but eat and drink and savor the vibe of just being together. It’s the only day when one-of-a-kinds like pumpkin whoopie pies and cream squares and butternut squash soup are on the table and the essence of the day is just being thankful for all the blessings we have in our lives.
At least that’s the way it is under my roof. And I don’t know about you, but I thrive on all that. On the predictability and the tradition and the beauty of that one day. Each year, I look forward to every little detail that makes Thanksgiving Thanksgiving, from folding the napkins and making the cranberry sauce to baking the endless lineup of desserts, and yeah, even doing the dishes with my mother and sister-in-law after everyone else is passed out on the couch. I love every single bit of it.
But this year, for the first time in Sugarman family history, we’re changing it up. Like really going off the reservation. Way off. My little family is leaving all of our holiday traditions and extended family behind and taking Thanksgiving on the road. (On a plane, actually.)
This year, we’re traveling out of the country to spend the holiday with our oldest daughter who’s studying abroad in Ireland. So not only are we ditching our entire family and going completely off the grid, but we’re heading to a country that doesn’t even recognize Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Basically, we’re turning the holiday upside down and breaking from every single family tradition we’ve refined and embraced all these years—something that feels really awkward and weird because it’s so different than how we always celebrate the day.
About a week ago though, it dawned on me that as long as our little family was together around a table on November twenty-third, it literally didn’t matter where in the world that table was or if we were eating turkey and stuffing or steak and Guinness pie or sushi, as long as we were all together. Because wherever we are, the laughter and the love and the spirit of Thanksgiving will be with us.
It also occurred to me that if I brought about five dozen of everyone’s favorite dessert with me, we could have that one iconic thing that embodies Thanksgiving for every single person in my family. That one food that everyone in my family waits for all year that symbolizes the holiday even more than the turkey itself. So that’s exactly what I did. I baked three massive trays of my mother-in-law’s famous creme squares and packed them in Tupperware, prayed that the TSA agents didn’t stop me, and carried them on my lap all the way across the pond. Because, according to Dave and my girls, wherever the creme squares are, it’s Thanksgiving.
And the simple act of doing that was the turning point for me. It was the moment when I knew that taking Thanksgiving on the road was going to be its own kind of unique, beautiful celebration—a celebration of just being together. Because isn’t that the purpose of spending the last Thursday of November under the same roof every year? To me it is.
They say, Home is wherever your heart is. Well, we’re tweaking that a little this year and saying that Thanksgiving is wherever we are (and wherever the creme squares are). And this year, that’s Ireland.
In the interest of full disclosure, though, I actually found a pub in Dublin that hosts a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner, complete with turkey and stuffing and taters and pumpkin pie and live-streamed NFL footballs games. (I’m just smuggling in the creme squares to really cinch the whole thing up.) I mean, we’ve gotta preserve at least some of the Thanksgiving basics, right?
Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at lisasugarman.com. Or, find them on LittleThings.com, GrownandFlown.com, BeingAMom.life, Hot Moms Club, More Content Now, and Care.com. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is and Untying Parent Anxiety: 18 Myths That Have You in Knots—And How to Get Free available on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, and at select bookstores.