First Thanksgiving

Tomorrow, like far too many others, I’ll be heading up the Eastern seaboard, fighting over the radio in a barely-functioning mini-van we’re hoping will get us all the way up to Connecticut.

I haven’t had much time to ruminate on it – what with the European vaca that bled right into the eye surgery. But now that it’s staring me in the face, there’s no getting around it. After all, it’s kind of a big deal: I’ll be spending my first Thanksgiving with the boy.

Sure, we’ve had Rosh Hashonah luncheons and family fourth of July parties and  birthday dinners in the city (several cities, actually) over the past 2+ years. But Thanksgiving is a big deal, for me at least. It’s my favorite holiday (based on two easy criteria: 1-my favorite food in the whole wide world is mashed potatoes and 2-I’m Jewish, thus knocking out the allure of that whole presents-under-the-tree thing.)

Last year, my beloved holiday was the source of probably my biggest fight to date with said boy. It’s not really something I look back on fondly, or even with an ounce of rightousness (ok, maybe an ounce.) The thing was, I desperately wanted him to come to Thanksgiving at my parents’ house. I wanted him to meet my cousins and aunts and uncles, who really only come together for this one day a year, sad as it is. I also just wanted him by my side – we were in a long-distance relationship at that point, and vacation days were few and far between. But, if I’m being totally honest here (and why wouldn’t I be? no one’s reading!), the main reason I wanted him to come was to prove a point. To show everyone – my family, his family – how serious we were, how committed to each other, how grown-up I was now. How I’d done it, found the one – the Jewish, med-student one nonetheless – and can I have a cookie now please? Because when you’re in a long-distance relationship for two years and most of your quality couple time is spent on the phone or holed up in a dreary New Jersey apartment and half your friends don’t even believe you have a boyfriend, because they sure as hell never see him – when you’re in a relationship like that, sometimes you need a little affirmation. Sometimes you need a little reminder of why you’re spending $200 on Amtrak every other weekend. Sometimes you need something, anything to remind you of the end product, the light at the end of the tunnel, of what it all could mean and be, like maybe an infinite number of Thanksgivings together, spread out all in a row before you.

I was itching to take that step last year…but it didn’t happen. Instead, I spent the holiday in Connecticut at my parents’ and he spent it in New Jersey at his parents’.  It wasn’t all bad – I got to wear my new sparkly skirt and hang out with my brothers and eat my mom’s mashed potatoes. It was the status quo.

This year, I’m getting what I wanted. He’s ready, he’s coming. It was settled weeks ago, no begging necessary. And his presence won’t be the only change. For the first time ever, neither of my brothers will be there. A solid subsection of my family – including my grandpa’s 95-year old baby sister, the only remaining member of that generation – has been diverted to a rival family celebration on Long Island. And word on the street is that my mom is making roasted sweet potatoes this year instead of that classic marshmallow-encrusted casserole thingy. Tradition has been turned on its head.

As much as I joke about the significance of yam preparation, the truth is that there are a lot of changes on display this Thanksgiving. People are getting engaged and married and having babies and filing off accordingly. People are getting old. People are moving – sometimes, far far away. I’m not sure if I’m ready for all of it. But I know that it won’t be nearly as scary with his hand to hold under the table.

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