Thursday, November 27, 2008

Being thankful for tradition and change

I'm grateful we have a day where the whole point is to simply look around, acknowledge what we have, be thankful, and eat great food (the last part being conditional; I supposed it depends on where you end up on Thanksgiving).

Last year at this time I believe we were just kind of hanging one day my family (and extended family...29 of us to be exact) would descend on San Pedro to catch a 3-day cruise that took us down to Ensenada and back. That trip was so much fun, it's difficult to believe that was already one year ago. The family time was incredible and while I never thought I would see myself actually enjoy a cruise, I came back thinking "now THAT'S how to have a family reunion."

Nobody had to fight about what time to meet up, what restaurant we should go to, who was going to pay, or how we would all get there. And I could be doing one thing with my sister and my cousin, and all of a sudden we'd run into our other cousins and I'd drift away to go hang out with them for awhile. We managed to get about 20 of us together to fill up a bingo row so we could be the loudest and most obnoxious group in there. I laugh a little just thinking about it.

I wish every holiday could be that much fun.

This year is back to normal; feeling bad as I tell my dad that I'm headed to Napa to my mom's for dinner. "Well, I'll be around all weekend, so if you're in the area..." he trails off. "Dad," I say sternly, "I am NEVER just 'in Vacaville.'" Instantly I regret my condescending tone. Like one of his many casts of his fishing line, he's just trying to put it out there, hoping I might bite.

In that way, I'm thankful for traditions. It's so much easier when you don't even have to think or make decisions. Kind of like the triathlon season - you've got your training plan set so all you have to do is follow it. No decisions need to be made, you just go and enjoy the moment (or at least...suffer through it, knowing you had no choice).

But life goes on with its twists and turns and road splits, and traditions crumble and form into new ones. And some don't. Some traditions simply stay behind, lingering only in our memories as we reminisce about 'the good old days.'

I'm also grateful for change, though. I can remember so many traditional Thanksgivings where things weren't so great, whether it was because my parents were upset with each other, or my mom was upset with her sister, or I had grown tired of the same old carrot-jello salad and over-cooked Gołąbki (pronounced "Go-lump-ki": my mom's side is Polish and very ingrained with food traditions).

My parents first decided they would be the black sheep in 1997 and *gasp* do something OTHER than go to my grandparents' house. We rented a cabin with some close friends up near Tahoe and went skiing and made our own Thanksgiving dinner. I can recall thinking "wow...I like this idea of doing something different."

Ever since then Thanksgiving has been something different. In 1999 they got together with friends, took the trailer out to Dillon Beach and ate BBQ oysters and drank wine. I was in college then and brought along a friend who was from Argentina; she had a pretty nice impression of what Thanksgiving was.

I'm grateful both my parents have empowered me with the idea of breaking tradition and embracing change. But with that empowerment comes the responsibility of making a decision. That's where the tough part comes in.

As the holiday drew nearer this year, I still had my head in the sand, thinking if I kept it there I might be able to put off my decision-making for just a little bit longer. Before I knew it, though, Thanksgiving week was here!

I had friends asking "so, what are you doing for Thanksgiving?" As I replied "not sure," they blinked back incredulously, as if I was some sort of rogue human for NOT having my Thanksgiving plans set in stone weeks ahead of time.

Just as we must step back from our training plans every now and then to evaluate and make sure they're working, it's good to step back from the usual things we do and see if there's any changes we can make. Any enhancements we can add.

I am a creature of habit in the way I like to have coffee (little cream, no sugar) every morning, I can't go to sleep without putting chapstick on, and I must have classical music on at work in the background. But besides my little daily practices, I generally embrace change. I tire of routines. By the time Vineman rolled around in July I was so tired of the same old schedule. In that vein, I had briefly entertained the idea of getting away somewhere for Thanksgiving and being thankful elsewhere. But I realized that I don't visit my family as much as I used to last year; I'd like to be with them today.

I'm thankful for where I'm at. I often 'escaped' Berkeley each Sunday to go be with my family in Napa. As much as I enjoyed living there, it never quite felt like home. Having been in Sonoma County for almost a year, I feel like this is a place I can call home. I don't need to escape anywhere. It's a nice feeling.

So, as I get ready to embark on my traditional Thanksgiving Day activity (I would say bike ride, but I've changed that tradition this year; I'm going to be doing a day-after-Thanksgiving ride; probably a run today), I would like to say that I'm grateful for friends - new and old, internet and real-world; I'm grateful for traditions - ones that have fallen out of practice and deep into my memory and others that have yet to begin; I'm grateful for the unconditional love of my family; I'm grateful for my health; I'm grateful for the promise of a new year; and certainly not least, I'm grateful for the opportunity to eat a great meal and not go hungry today...or any day.


rocketpants said...

Great post! Have a happy thanksgiving.

BreeWee said...

Oh this is so true... I also wish every holiday felt like a day everyone was just so thankful! Suppose the hard days make these holidays more worth appreciating.

Glad your day was incredible... you for sure inspired me this season too!

Kathleen @ ForgingAhead said...

Lovely post Sarah! You really captured the struggle some of us face with fractured families and evolving rituals. Happy turkey day girlfriend.