Ask most people their favorite holiday, and I venture few would say Thanksgiving. I'm torn on if it's my favorite, (heyo Halloween and NYE) but Thanksgiving is in the conversation. I will say that wasn't the case until the wife and I moved to California, pushing us out of familiar holiday territory.
For anyone who doesn't live out here, most of us in/around L.A. are transplants. We all come from various states and countries trying to make it in this crazy biz, so it's really a hodgepodge of 'Guess where I'm originally from?'
To me, it's made everything more interesting.
For example, I considered homemade noodles a Thanksgiving staple. Never in my life have I celebrated a Turkey Day without noodles. Yet I learned on our first California Thanksgiving that my Chicago buddy had never heard of such a tradition. Ditto my Wisconsin friends.
You people are crazy. I thought. Guess I'll have to educate them on the deliciousness of noodles over mashed potatoes.
That's also the year I first learned how much work goes into preparing a Thanksgiving meal and cooking up the same noodles I'd enjoyed all those years back home.
It's about 2:30 a.m. now. I just finished rolling, cutting, and laying out the last batch of noodles to dry for the night. This marks the fifth year in a row I've handled the task. Always took for granted Mom and Mamaw making the noodles when I was younger. Think I did them both proud though with this batch.
Admittedly, it would be easier just to buy a couple bags of pre-packaged egg noodles and dump them in the pot. I like making them from scratch. Gives me time to reflect.
Tonight I've thought about the last four years of Friendsgivings.
I say Friendsgivings because when you live half the country away from any relatives, your friends are your family.
Our first year in California, my in-law's flew in so we wouldn't have to be alone for the holiday. Fortunately, we also had a couple other guests. One, my buddy from Chicago, the other a friend from Cambodia. I'll never forget that Thanksgiving because this Cambodian man, (truly one of the most remarkable people I've ever known), was so excited just to be with us for dinner. He wanted to try a bit of everything, just to get a taste. Naturally, we were eager to share and urged him on long after he mentioned the need to stop and save room for the next Thanksgiving he would attend. This one with his Cambodian friends.
I drove him over and barely introduced myself before these kind people welcomed me inside their home. There I learned why this annual holiday was soon to become one of my favorites.
A few of them watched football, but I also saw a karaoke machine and little stage area. I smelled fish and was thrilled to see they had a plate of dragon fruit. They pressed me to sample a few different dishes.
Now it was my turn to try new things.
Happy to say I did, even though I had no earthly idea what I was sampling. (Whatever I ate was delicious, btw). After bidding farewell to them all and driving home, I couldn't stop grinning at the thought racing circles in my head.
This is what Thanksgiving is truly about.
I think about that day every Thanksgiving now. In the few years since then, our circle of friends has continued to grow. New transplants move in, while other friends move home. There are times when I too miss home and long for the familiarity of tradition. But as each year passes and the calendar winds down to this amazing holiday, I find myself looking forward to seeing who comes through our door and what new and different traditions they bring with them.
I've had twenty-six years of family Thanksgivings. While fun, they all run together in my head. But I can tell you with distinct clarity about each of these past five Karen and I shared with our little pocket of Midwest friends and random other transplants because they're each different. Last year, I ate pierogi before I had turkey. The year before that, I had bacon-wrapped dates. Each Thanksgiving has been a swing-door of newcomers bringing new traditions to match others we've already adopted.
I don't know of any other day in the year like this special one.
So this Thanksgiving, try something new. It doesn't matter what. Just do anything different to throw things off the rails a little bit.
Ask a friend from school, work, or church if you can swing by to say hey at their Thanksgiving. Find out what they've been raving or complaining about each year.
Don't just let Uncle Bob's newest date sit at the end of the table by herself. Chat her up and learn what she usually does for Thanksgiving. After all, you know he won't invite her back next year. What have you got to lose?
Oh, and definitely try the noodles. I hear they're awesome...
Happy Thanksgiving. ;)
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Author. Actor. Rascal.