This is not your normal obligatory Thanksgiving blog post. As this year I find myself more reflective than in so many years gone past.
As I sit down for the kickoff of the Packers game I started to think back. Over the years I’ve seen thanksgiving in so many forms and facets. I honestly don’t recall many of my first Turkey days. Probably because they were quite basic and I was too young to understand the moment. Back then it was just really big meal with the family.
Then like so many other families I became a child of a family split by divorce. It was then that I began to learn that Turkey day was a big deal as the big day was split between my now two families. This one single day now often stretched over an entire weekend of visits! Some casual and brief interludes just long enough for family to touch base and confirm we all were still alive and well. And others huge family reunions filled will generations of extended family. This routine became an event that I began to look forward to year after year. And then I joined the Army and it all changed in a very different and unexpected way.
My first Thanksgiving as a member of the armed forces found me in my AIT (Advanced Individual Training). As much as I thought I would be miserable that day everything was new. Even if it was a turkey dinner in a chow hall, I was among fellow soldiers that all missed home as well. We made the best of it. My second turkey day was spent deployed, lets just say it was not all that amazing and mostly forgetable. I just remember I wished I could have been home.
My second thanksgiving as a soldier showed me for the first time the true meaning of the Holiday. That second thanksgiving away from home found me deep in life long friendships, but short on anyone of us that had any clue on how to cook. Twelve gamers all servicemen spread over about 7 Specialization’s and not a cook among us! Then there was a knock on the door that afternoon as we sat around gaming trying to decided what we were going to do for our first “Gamergiving”. It was my dear friend “Snarf” and his girlfriend. Her father was a retired Army Vet. And more then that he was a cook and while he was active he had served many a thanksgiving day meal for the troops away from home. And retirement had not changed this. We were all politely ordered to attend Thanksgiving at this total strangers home that evening. And we did most of us feeling a touch awkward walking into this complete strangers home.. until we crossed the threshold of that humble home. Every square inch of that amazing family’s home with a flat surface had food on it. And we were told to not eat like starved teens would be insulting; we did not disappoint that day.
By the time the next Turkey day rolled around I was no longer In the army; yet many of my dear friends were. And so I looked to the example given to me. Missy and I gathered all our friends and without a place to go and hosted our first ‘Gamer-Giving.” Thus began a many year long tradition of games and food on the four day weekends year after year. Dice and Drinks. Turkey and Fun. Family away from family. The years and memories are too many to recount. And for the longest time I envisioned that this would always be how our Thanksgiving would be. Alas it would not always be. But I’ll have the memories and cherish them always.
The last few years have found my dear Missy overseas over the holidays more then once. The tradition all but came to a grinding halt without her around. I could not find myself willing or wanting to have a big to do with her overseas. So our tradition became a small day with just me and my son. Enjoying football and quiet and looking back thankfully for all we have had. Then last year something changed. Determined to not see this man have a turkey day as a hermit one of my gamers kicked down my door and presented me with a full spread turkey dinner with all the trimmings. It was a great day and an eye opener. It jarred me back to the world to realize I had stopped the tradition I loved.
Fast forward one year and here we are again. This year we were invited to a large gathering; we still might show up not to eat but to say hello, share a glass and some time with friends new and old. But fear not; I have not returned to my hermit ways. This year My dear Missy is home. Yes were having a small meal and we have only invited one or two people to swing by and visit. Maybe we will get back into our habits again next year. This year were just happy to be a whole family again.