Navigating the Turkey Traditions of Married Life
November 17th, 2015
When you get married, there’s a lot of merging to be done. You’re combining two lives and the list of “things which must now co-exist” is lengthy. Everything from pets to shower curtains to CD collections has to find its proper place in the new world order. Some decisions are easy. Others require painful compromise. (Believe me when I tell you I never anticipated having deer antlers hanging in my bedroom).
But the difficulty of combining the physical stuff is nothing compared to the relational acrobatics required to combine family traditions.
A lot of couples struggle to establish a shared vision for Christmas festivities, but my husband and I generally think alike when it comes to decking the halls and rocking around the Christmas tree. Once we realized that we shared a passionate belief in the supremacy of clear white lights over colored, the rest was easy.
Thanksgiving, on the other hand, has always posed somewhat more of a challenge.
Let’s start with the fact that my family was never particularly observant of turkey day when I was growing up. I was an only child with far-flung relatives. The clan gathered for Christmas, but traveling hundreds of miles twice in two months was out of the question, so my folks and I generally flew solo for Thanksgiving.
My mom’s a great cook, but she’s a practical lady and preparing a Thanksgiving feast for a table of three is nobody’s idea of a good time. Couple that with the fact that my family is joyfully manic about Christmas decorations, and we often treated Thanksgiving as a fueling stop en route to Christmas.
I believe that my cavalier attitude toward Thanksgiving may have been the most shocking thing my husband discovered about me after we were married. He grew up in a very devout, turkey-loving home and my offhand treatment of the Feast of Turkeys was a worrisome indicator that he might have gotten more than he bargained for in our union.
Then there’s the food itself. Our families have, shall we say, divergent views about appropriate culinary inclusions for the Thanksgiving table. My husband’s family cooks solid, traditional foods – and does them well. Turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie. If Norman Rockwell showed up for Thanksgiving dinner, he’d feel right at home.
As for my family? Well, when we last gathered to mark the occasion, the side dishes included wild-rice dressing and roasted Brussel sprouts, and this year my mother asked in all seriousness if turkey was a non-negotiable item on a Thanksgiving dinner menu. We often hide tofu in the mashed potatoes and my mom’s favorite cranberry dish involves horseradish and is Pepto-Bismol pink.
Oh, and I hate pumpkin pie. (A fact that I will admit is deeply ironic considering my column a few weeks ago waxing poetic on the wonders of pumpkin pie spice. What can I say? The squishy texture of pumpkin pie freaks me out.)
But families are about compromise and so we muddle our way through the treacherous Thanksgiving terrain each year. I have made my peace with leaving the Christmas decorations in their boxes until the first Sunday of Advent (though I occasionally sneak a few holiday CDs into the rotation early), and I dutifully serve pumpkin pie every year (alongside a nice chocolate French silk). I think my kids are growing up influenced by the best of both worlds; they have an appreciation for tradition coupled with a taste for adventure.
This article originally appeared in the November 15th edition of our SmallTownUSA newspaper.