Picture the perfect Thanksgiving. What buzzwords come to mind? Family, food, relaxing maybe? My Thanksgivings were never relaxing. My husband and I considered ourselves lucky; since his family is Jewish and mine is Catholic, Thanksgiving was the only holiday we had to split. That also made it The Worst Holiday of the Year.
Every year, we'd start pestering our aunts in early October to find out who was hosting. Then, we'd have to nag them to nail down a time. We'd hammer out a plan to have dinner with one side, and dessert with the other.
It never worked. Dinner would be served half an hour late by family number one, and we'd arrive at family number two's gathering just in time to see the last slice of apple pie gobbled up by someone else . . . who'd probably already had a slice.
After our son was born, we decided the solution to our predicament would be to host. Have you ever hosted a holiday gathering? It's the complete opposite of relaxing. You basically turn your home into a restaurant for a day. You spend all day cooking, dirty up every single dish, and your guests only eat about a quarter of the food. Then you spend all night cleaning around them and yawning, hoping they'll take the hint and go home so you can find somewhere to store 18 metric shit-tons of turkey and finally go to bed.
A couple of years ago, most of the family broke off on their own for Thanksgiving. Some went on vacation, others went to celebrate with out-of-state relatives, and we realized that it was about to fall upon us to host the stragglers. Then, a Thanksgiving miracle happened: my husband received a promotional email from his favorite fancy steakhouse, advertising their Thanksgiving menu. Could we really do it? Dare we . . . quit Thanksgiving?
Oh, yes, we did.
We made our reservation, dressed up all fancy, and went out to dinner. Our son, just shy of three-years-old at the time, behaved perfectly. He even ate salad. Salad! Afterwards, we took him to his first movie at the theater. It was glorious.
The next year, the emails started flying early. They were on to us. Speculations were made on who would be hosting. We dashed off a quick note: "Sorry; already made our reservation!" We spent our Thanksgiving with Wreck-It Ralph that year.
Each year, the guilt of ditching our extended family lessens, little by little. It's not that we don't love them, or want to spend time with them . . . we'll be seeing them all in a month for Christmas and belated Hanukkah, after all. And doesn't absence make the heart grow fonder?
I know that when I recline after dinner this year and slip on my 3D glasses, with a box of Junior Mints in my lap and half a carafe of overpriced Pinot Grigio in my belly, I'll truly be thankful. Isn't that what Thanksgiving is really all about?
This post originally appeared on In the Powder Room.