We spent our first Thanksgiving together in 2008, sans family – and definitely sans friends – in a state we had lived in for all of three weeks. With 1500 square feet of space, a huge dining table, thoughts of enough comfort food to feed a small army, and absolutely no one we loved to share it with, we thought the least depressing thing to do was skip the traditional Thanksgiving celebration for Thanksgiving Lite: the nontraditional Thanksgiving for traditionalists with tiny families. It felt like an abrupt change at the time, but looking back it was a natural progression, I suppose, for two people in their early 20s creating a new life together. It symbolized freedom, and the beginning of a new family, and novelty for the sake of novelty is what we needed to get started. We broke out a big bottle of red, quickly assembled the standard small appetizers like cheese and charcuterie boards (because snacking on Thanksgiving is everyone’s tradition), managed to find the only bag of Cheez Doodles in Athens, Georgia on the very bottom shelf of the chip aisle in Publix, stayed on the straight-and-narrow by baking the requisite three types of pie, and later that evening we came together with a novel entrée that just screamed “us:” a double batch of stromboli, and, of course, a big pepperoni pizza. We took our feast to the living room, sat on our couch, turned on the movie Twister, and laughed at Bill Paxton while we ate one of the best holiday meals of our lives. No huge dining table necessary.
Despite not seeing my parents, brother, and extended family for the first time ever on my favorite holiday, and despite the twinges of loneliness I felt because of it, Thanksgiving 2008 still goes down as one of my favorites. It was so much fun that we’ve kept up our nontraditional Thanksgiving for traditionalists with tiny families for 6 more years. Until now.
This year, things were different. We were waxing “big traditional Thanksgiving dinner” over our tradition of “Thanksgiving Lite,” mostly because we actually had a reason for a big celebration, and a reason for another change. We were creating another new life together, but this time, it was happening in my body. I was pregnant. Our household of two was expanding, and suddenly Thanksgiving warranted more than just a pizza. I craved a big traditional celebration that always represented the family togetherness that I was missing so much, and now there was nothing to miss. I had that togetherness again in my family of creation, and there couldn’t have been a better reason for such a celebration than the promise of the three of us. Not even nausea could stop my dreaming about what was going to be the most awesome Thanksgiving EVER.
But “was” is the operative word here.
I was pregnant.
Now I’m not.
Just like that.
We very recently suffered a miscarriage (a subject which I am not quite up for devoting more than a few words to for the moment) with heartbreakingly impeccable timing for the holidays, and the pre-planned, carefully purchased menu was obviously the last to know. It didn’t understand that it was only wanted under certain conditions, or that a night with pizza felt decidedly more “right” than any kind of actual formal celebration after such an event. Although, really, nothing could feel quite right in circumstances like these.
And it’s in these circumstances, I have learned, that what we need more than anything is to sit with and hold space for our feelings rather than try fruitlessly to run them away by changing everything but the feelings themselves, not to mention their origins. So we’re sitting with them — along with our big Thanksgiving feast — if for no other reason than to honor and give thanks for what we have just lost, to mark and give thanks for a brand new beginning, and to surround ourselves now with a little of what we plan to have in our future: us, our kids, and one day our grandkids, and even great-grandkids celebrating together around a huge dining table with that big, traditional thanksgiving dinner. The kids part of it all — providing another healthy conception, and the various miracles that clearly need to occur to have a healthy pregnancy — shouldn’t be too far away. We hope.
Until then, we’re determined not to despair over what we’ve lost, but rather to be grateful for the ultimate gift we’ve received in 2015: hope. For now, on this Thanksgiving, it’s just the two of us cooking and eating a full traditional thanksgiving meal (there’s turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green beans, creamed corn, cranberry relish, rolls, challah, pumpkin pie, apple pie, and chocolate pie involved), watching Twister, and practicing for what’s to come by listening to this on repeat while it’s all happening. It’s a new old tradition for a new emerging family. Nothing will ever be quite the same for us from here on out.
We’re so thankful for the support and love of our parents (especially our moms during this hard time in our lives), our family, our friends, and our two pets who have filled our lives with so much happiness and amusement. We are grateful for the privileges of living in a city we love, for a home we adore, for having food on our table, for having good jobs and money to ensure that we have these things and more, and for having a loving marriage and household. We are glad for my pregnancy — even if it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to — and for how it showed us our spectacular future in technicolor. We’re gladder still for more opportunities and genetic combinations that may produce our first child, and for what we are left with in the wake of our loss: infinite possibility. We appreciate that we have this space for sharing our joys, our sorrows, and our everyday lives, and that you all come back time and again to read about them.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday filled with the grand essentials for happiness (according to George Washington Burnap, at least): something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.
All of our love,
Alex and Deena