I was 25 years old the first Thanksgiving I spent alone. It was the latter half of the 90s. I had recently moved to Los Angeles. I was two weeks into a new job (my very first job in the movie business, which was a huge deal to me at the time) so I couldn’t get the time off to travel home. And, to be totally honest, I didn’t have the cash to spend on an airline ticket … and I was too proud to ask my parents for help.
In retrospect, I think I thought it was something I wanted. I wanted my roommate to disappear for a few days. I was desperate to have our 550 square foot apartment to myself. To be able to read a book without interruption or have to listen to “bad” music coming from the other room. I looked forward to eating whatever food was in the fridge without worry about who paid for the milk. To not have the television on 24 hours a day. I was looking, I thought, for some quiet.
My boss and her fiancé had offered the “new kid” an obligatory invite to dinner at their home. But I turned it down, completely confident it would be awesome to not have any plans. I didn’t know many people in Los Angeles at that point, but the thought of spending it with my 30-something boss, her boyfriend and their parents made me cringe with anxiety way more than the thought of spending the day alone.
But waking up in Sunny Southern California on what in my past had always been a chilly November day … on a day that had always been one of my favorite holidays … separated from the people that I love and with no plans on the horizon … It was strange. A noiseless void and a deeper quiet than I had known before. In my apartment. On the streets. In the nearby park where I walked my dog. In my mind’s eye, it was an emptiness not unlike a post-Apocalyptic world that is both serene and eery and full of a loneliness I hadn’t known possible.
Twenty years later and I’m still surprised by the length of that day and how much I missed my Mom. I missed slicing apples and making pies while my sister chopped celery for the stuffing. (It was always my job to make the pies.) I missed the laughter in the kitchen. I missed my Grandmother’s constant wiping up water spots on the coffee table made by sweaty glasses of soda and cider and beer and wine. I even missed the bickering and the flare-ups of old family arguments that seem to only rear their head at holiday gatherings.
At 40-something, with two kids, and having spent more than my share of holidays at home with all our family here in Montana, you’d think I’ve be over the emotional trauma of that one singular day.
But each year, as we fall into Daylight Savings Time and the Holidays loom large, it always comes rushing back. And while it wasn’t clear to me then (or for years after, for that matter), I now realize the Truth of what that day was. That day was, by far, my most utterly grateful Thanksgiving because it made me truly aware of what’s important and worth being thankful for.
Wishing you a Thanksgiving filled with love and laughter and gratefulness …
Three of my favorite Thanksgiving Recipes:
*note: reprinted with permission from the Neighbors of South Bozeman Magazine, Nov. 2016 issue