My father-in-law passed away in March and this is our first Thanksgiving without him.

Thanksgiving was “his” holiday.  He loved it above any other (although 4th of July was a close second).  When J and I became “serious” about each other and started spending holidays together, Thanksgiving went to his family and we spent Christmas with mine.  Every year for the past 17 years, we’ve trekked up to New Hampshire on the Wednesday before Turkey Day, sometimes spending four or five hours in traffic just to get there – but it was worth it. My mother-in-law would have a steaming pasta dinner ready for us when we arrived and the Thanksgiving pies would be cooling in the pantry.  Thanksgiving day would be filled with family – J’s brother, wife and two daughters and his sister, brother-in-law and their two little ones would  arrive around noon and the festivities would begin – lots of cooking, kids getting wild, adults uncorking wine, and talking…lots and lots of talking.  As we sat down to eat, we would toast to Thanksgiving – to our bounty and the beautiful meal that my mother-in-law prepared and our good fortune to be together.  This year it’s different.

While we had planned to travel to my mother-in-law’s home this year, as we did in the past, she felt that she could not handle the holiday – completely understandable.  But that left us wondering what our holiday was going to look like.  What new traditions we were going to create for ourselves and which to carry with us into the future.  Not so easy when you are still mourning the loss of a parent and wishing that things could still be the same as they had been in the past.

So we decided to keep some old traditions and sprinkle in a few new ones:  we kept family (because that’s what it’s all about, right?!) my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and my nieces spent the holiday with us; we kept some foods (turkey, sweet potatoes, carrots, cranberry sauce), and left others behind (mushy peas and chestnuts – sorry, Dad, you were the only one who ate them!); we watched some of the Macy’s Parade, but also bundled up and went to the local high school football game.  Oh, yes, we kept the wine and the talking and crazy kids.  There were some solemn moments and lots of memories of past years’ holidays shared – and some tears – but overall a good Thanksgiving.

While I think my father-in-law would have wanted the old tradition to stand, I think he would understand that this year it had to be different.  We will have to see what next year brings…

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