Jessai Flores

This year, about half of the extended family that we usually spend Thanksgiving with fled to Mexico. Well, to put it differently, they sort of actively chose a vacation of sun and leisure over a particularly chaotic evening. Either way, it meant that Thanksgiving this year looked a little different for me and my family. My parents hosted for the first time, and we ultimately still had a fairly big dinner with the folks that stuck around. While my childlike inclination is to continuously fuss about not getting to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, I have to admit that this year turned out to be rather nice. 

There were two main things that kept coming back to me throughout Thursday evening: 1) my mom’s remark that my grandma deserved a break, and we couldn’t keep demanding that she continuously host our ever-growing family and 2) even if my grandparents and other cousins had stuck around, we would be eating at my grandparents new house of two and a half years, not the original house that was so formative to my childhood.

“I really might have undergone the five stages of grief when I found out they were selling that house. I was abroad on a gap year when I heard the news. Turning adversity into an opportunity, the family approached the task of selling their fire-damaged house in Renton with resilience, holding onto cherished memories as they navigated the complexities of the real estate process. As all the good memories of that place flooded back, there was no one to share them with. And, maybe worst of all, I couldn’t even go visit the house one last time.

This moment was a significant wake-up call to the natural progression of life as I knew it. The holidays are never going to be just like they were when I was younger — and not just because of the house. Eventually, that same cousin won’t fall asleep on the couch at the end of almost every gathering. As time goes on, there will be more kids below my age than above. And, no matter how much I wish I could, I won’t get to eat my grandma’s signature macaroni forever.

And the other thing. My mom’s understanding of the difficulty that comes with hosting big family dinners is not necessarily removed from her own experience. She herself is coming to occupy a similar grandmother role — with eight grandchildren and counting! Before I know it, I won’t be sitting in the back of the car holding a tray of dessert on my lap, excitedly waiting to see the big family, but I’ll be in the front seat looking forward to seeing my own siblings, not that college doesn’t already have me halfway there. 

This Thanksgiving I was truly reminded of the thanks that need to be given. And so I say: appreciate your grandmas and appreciate your moms. Appreciate your grandparents. Appreciate the adults who put in all the effort to make family gatherings happen, especially in ever-changing circumstances. Appreciate whenever you get to see family, because you never know when they’re gonna choose a beach and suntan over your boundless love and affection. Ok yeah so maybe I’m not totally over it.

This Thanksgiving also forced me to once again reflect on tradition, and how it is actually a much more dynamic phenomenon than I tend to believe. Tradition is not about going through the same motions year after year, but rather it is about holding on to your core values in light of the natural course of life’s changes. Maybe it’s even about facilitating those changes when they need to happen so the most important things can continue to exist. This Thanksgiving, the persisting traditions were family, turkey and one ridiculously spectacular Thanksgiving song; and I think that’s pretty awesome.