“Just Saying No” to Thanksgiving Stress

Thanksgiving is truly one of my favorite holidays. I really owe these good feelings to my own parents, who set an early example for their five kids on how to do it right.

Somehow in their division of marital labor agreement, my mom and dad decided that Thanksgiving was Daddy’s domain. So while he and the kids rose early to chop veggies and bake pies and stuff the turkey, Mom took to the couch for a day of relaxation. When I think now about her mothering of the five of us, I realize that those Thanksgiving mornings were some of the very few times I saw her get the “time off” she so richly deserved.

The resultant happy memories, the “perfect recipe” for stuffing (with Stovetop as its base) and pies baked “sort of” from scratch left me with warm feelings about a holiday that tends to stress-out too many moms. Our family lingered over the cooking, made a huge mess in the kitchen, and sat around the table chatting and laughing (and drinking, if you were old enough) for a long time after the last bit of food had been enjoyed. Sometimes there were guests — a favorite priest or a relative who was visiting — but often it was just us. We used the “good dishes”, candles were lit, and prayers of Thanksgiving were always at the heart of the meal.

When someone asks my own boys about their Thanksgiving traditions in future years, they won’t have the Norman Rockwell types of memories I have. In Hendey family fashion, many of our traditions equal non-traditional ways of doing things. We’ve had plenty of family Thanksgivings around our own dining room table or with Greg’s wonderful mom, but just as many away from home. A few years ago, during Eric’s first year at Harvard, we had to “divide and conquer” when we couldn’t get him home in time to celebrate. I headed to Boston and Adam and Dad headed to Ruth’s Chris. In fact, those two liked that particular “tradition” so much that we found ourselves dining there again last year.

This year, our “tradition” will have us traveling to Las Vegas. Nothing says “Thanksgiving” like a buffet meal on the strip, right?! I’m happy that we can get Eric almost all the way home, that we’ll be able to relax, take time off, and visit together. I’m happy that we’ll have the chance to attend Mass together at the Cathedral or the Shrine, that we’ll likely enjoy lots of great talks and some fun too. And frankly, I’m happy not to be cooking this year too.

As I approach the holiday weekend, the greatest “stresser” in my life at the moment is getting enough work done to take the weekend offline and relax in an unplugged fashion. I’ll be pre-posting some things for you here, but will also simply assume that you, too, are looking forward to a break.

I also want to personally thank my Patheos Editor Elizabeth Scalia for this gift of this little patch of the blogosphere to call my own. It’s been a blessing to me!

If you’re stressed out anticipating the holiday, I invite you to re-prioritize a bit and to realize that in the end, it’s the memories that matter more than what gravy recipe you used. I invite you to ponder your blessings with true thanks and to also think about how you might share a few of those with others.

I am thankful for each of you who stop by my blog for a visit, and for the good you do for those you love. I’m thankful for my faith and the opportunity to share it with others.

What are you thankful for this year? Does your family have special Thanksgiving traditions?


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