Thoughts from spending Thanksgiving away from my family for the first time

Throughout my entire life, I’ve spent every Thanksgiving at home. Well, I guess that’s not completely true. When I was 16 years old, my parents wanted to prove to themselves that they were still “hip” and decided that we would spend Thanksgiving in Las Vegas. After being forced to eat turkey sandwiches for Thanksgiving dinner, my family never spent another Thanksgiving away from home. Looking back on it, my family has spent every major holiday (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter) together for my entire life. This is the first year this tradition has been broken. Now I’m at college and live halfway across the country. With winter break being right around the corner, my parents and I mutually agreed that spending hundreds of dollars for me to come home for four days wasn’t worth it.

I know that my absence is hard for my parents (especially since I’m the baby of the family), but I hope they know that I feel the same. Growing up, my parents dubbed me the self-sufficient kid. In fact, I got to the point where I knew my medical history better than my own mother. But still, there’s always a part of me that’s deeply indebted to my family.

Most of my close friends from high school attend college in the same state (or at least in the same time zone) as where we grew up. While I’m staying on campus 2,000 miles away, they’re heading home for the holiday. My Snapchat is filled with “Reunited with the Fam” stories from all my friends. Dozens of checkins to my hometown pop up on my Facebook. There is no word count to this article that could quantify my desire to wake up today, back at home, and be able to “taste test” my mom’s Thanksgiving dinner (AKA eat my own weight in potato salad before 10 a.m.). I yearn to smell our pumpkin and cranberry candles that are only lit during November. Listening over the phone to my parents ESPN-esque run down of their adventure to buy a HoneyBaked Ham isn’t as hilarious as seeing it in person. Oddly enough, I miss arguing with my sister over which type of pie my mother should bake (but let’s be honest, apple pie will always be the best).

Every Thanksgiving, I’ve always been with my family. Not to say that I don’t know the people who are still with me. In fact, some of my closest friends are staying on campus too.

But something is different.I feel off not seeing my mom’s ancient Thanksgiving decorations adorning every nook and cranny and not plotting my Black Friday master plan with my family. Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude, and this is the first time I haven’t been spending it with the people to whom I’m most grateful: my parents (who supported me even when I didn’t believe in myself) and my sister (who dealt with me, the world’s most loving and annoying little sister).

These few days will be rough; I won’t lie. I’ll have to refrain from the dining halls’ macaroni and cheese because I know it won’t taste like my mom’s. There will definitely be a sheepish grin on my face while I watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade (because my family always tries to watch it, but oversleeps every year). Even though there will be an empty chair for Thanksgiving dinner, my family can be sure that I’ll be at the table, ready to feast on my mom’s perfect mac and cheese, for Christmas.

(Image via Shutterstock.)

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