We’re traveling again, on the road for the Thanksgiving holiday. This year we’ll be with family, seeing different ones over the course of the week. Some years we’ve been with friends, and had to add the family touch via phone. We do the best we can, but making the family connection in person is not always possible. When that happens, friends round out the circle, fill in the space at the table, make the holiday bright.
Here’s what I’ve learned about celebrating and connecting in spirit, since we moved far from family, 27 years ago:
- When you connect on a regular basis, holidays are icing on the cake. Holidays don’t have to function as points of glue. The day-to-day relationship is the glue.
- Connecting can be as simple as a phone call or Skyping or a card or an email. Or in today’s world, a Facebook post.
- Distance can work for you. It can smooth the rough spots and make you appreciate the good stuff.
- You’ll only maintain the relationships you nurture. That’s especially true when you have to relate across the miles.
- A carefully planned “surprise” visit, or some gesture that shows you’re thinking outside the box…becomes a highlight. There’s nothing more fun than orchestrating a trip like this. And the faces when you pull it off…priceless!
- Spending holidays with friends has enlarged our circle and our traditions. Some of my favorite memories are of Thanksgivings with friends. We’ve learned new foods, new games, and built relationships that have lasted over the years, solidified by adopting others as “family.”
- Find the right balance between pulling out all the stops for a special gathering, and keeping it real and sane. I’ve learned to pick and choose…we don’t try to do everything, we just try to do a few things well.
- Mark the moment. I’ve learned to stop in the middle of the hustle-bustle and just look around and absorb.
- Limit the drama. Family gatherings should not be a time of crisis or scenes. Create memories that are good so you’ll want to get together again.
- Bring something new to the party…a new food, a new game, something different.
- Decide what traditions are keepers. What are you always going to do, no matter who sits at the table?
Holidays don’t wait for life to be perfect. I’ve never quite achieved the Martha Stewart magazine spread for my living room or my dining room, although I’ve tried. Who doesn’t have the ideal scene in their head, just waiting to be unveiled in real life and captured in family photos as proof that it can be done?
But I’ve had better than a magazine spread. I’ve had the real thing, in all its chaos and glory, deliciousness and kitchen failures, to tell me, and those gathered with me: this is the good stuff.
“The sun looks down on nothing half so good as a household laughing together over a meal.” ~ C.S. Lewis