My Unexpected Thanksgiving!

After our nine years of living in St. Louis, half a continent away from family on either coast, one of the things we looked forward to when we moved back to Northern California was spending the holidays with family members.

I don’t know about you, but I love having large groups of family and friends at my table for the holidays. A few years ago we had 22 people for Thanksgiving in our small condo—we had to move out all our living room furniture to make room. And even though it was a lot of work to have so many in our home, I enjoyed sitting down that evening to our table (actually three tables) and seeing family members gathered together for the holiday.

A few years ago there was a huge family squabble which now means that many of our west coast relatives will not get together for the holidays. It is not worth recounting the disagreement or the disappointment; it is just something the family has to accept. I have learned that not all disagreements have resolution. When this split happened, my immediate family (husband and two kids) started a new Thanksgiving tradition: instead of eating a meal loaded with carbohydrates that linger on our hips and mid-sections for weeks, we started serving cooked cracked crab.

turkey    OR    crab

Online I learned that it is a California tradition to serve crab (scroll down to alternative to turkey) for Thanksgiving as the crab season starts in early November. One of the many benefits for serving crab on Thanksgiving is that it frees up the cook from having to babysit baste a turkey every few hours, so taking a nice long walk on Thanksgiving also become part of our tradition. And since crab is a light meal it leaves plenty of room for dessert—one of our favorite parts of the meal!

This year I thought I would gather family members together for the holiday and introduce them to our new tradition, while of course still honoring those who wanted to keep with the more traditional fare. But it didn’t work out. Most of the extended local family members decided to celebrate Thanksgiving on the east coast—including our kids. So David and I found ourselves alone for the holiday.

I have to admit that at first I felt sorry for us—a feeling that I don’t usually indulge. But after a few days we decided to take the bull by the horns and turn the situation around. So instead of sitting around, looking at each other for the holiday, we are heading over to Santa Cruz for the holiday. My fantasy is fresh cracked crab for Thanksgiving, walking to Natural Bridges State Park to see the migrating monarch butterflies, and of course gorgeous sunsets over the Pacific Ocean.

It wasn’t the holiday I expected, but it is now a holiday I am looking forward to!

What are your holiday plans this year?



As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

15 thoughts on “My Unexpected Thanksgiving!

  1. V.Lynn Hawkins

    What a great story about the Thanksgiving Holiday celebrations that have changed for you over time Heidi. I would say that it can happen to anyone at any time … that unexpected thing that shifts things for you, forever. I would also say that it is truly how you react to the gift of that change that matters.

    For me, I was in the state of doing Thanksgiving differently practically every year since my kids were grown and gone. I didn’t really have the large family that I’d every really experienced the gatherings and celebrations with. I was the untraditional tradition where the only thing that was certain was the knowledge that I would be where my son and daughter were and we would celebrate as a family. We’d planned that part a year in advance, and if we weren’t together for Thanksgiving, we would be for Christmas.

    My huge shift was when my son died in September 2012. I don’t know that I remember that Thanksgiving at all, and not much else until about the beginning of the new year. What I do remember is my relocating across the country from the SF Bay Area back to the place where I raised my kids, Atlanta, GA. I remember my son, family and friends coming to Atlanta for our memorial and burial ceremonies. In all of that, my oldest grandson (age 10 at the time) made his way with my daughter-in-law, my step-son and others who traveled from Japan to Atlanta … and the short story, my daughter and I have been raising him since that time.

    What I remember is something I’ve come to know … nothing just happens and everything happens for a reason. While we may not understand the reason why certain things happen, we do have to walk through the pain of the thing that resulted in the change. We awaken to many lessons if we choose to see beyond the view of what’s immediately in our view. We will walk the journey that gets us to the place that yo, Heidi have spoken of, seeing the possibilities.

    For me now, I see the possibilities of amazing Thanksgiving Holidays where my son is with me in Spirit. I celebrate Thanksgiving knowing wherever I am, those who love me are present. With that, I also choose to be the love that returns love to me.

    Finally, I remain open to the joy, the blessings, the abundance, and more that I invite to show up in the form of untraditional tradition in my life. … And I’m so grateful for all who have touched my life, allowing me to touch theirs and share any given part of our journeys.

    Happy Thanksgiving Heidi Sloss. There is Magic in Mothering … another thing I’m so grateful for … being somebody’s Mom! I’m so lucky and blessed!

    V. Lynn Hawkins, Mom and Grandmom
    Business Mentor and Strategy Development Muse
    Founder, P3 Academy of Social Entrepreneurship

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Thank you Lynn, I appreciate your perspective and for sharing it on my blog. Your experience of changing your life overnight because of the sad loss of your son and your now, brand new life, raising your grandson, is heartwarming to read about. I am learning that the more I can work on opening my heart, especially in times of stress or loss or grief, the more I can be in my own light and that can ease the pain or burden or what I am going through at that moment. It is isn’t easy and no one can do it for me, but when I am able to do it, it feels more complete and more connected inside and out. Hope that makes sense!

      I have known about half a dozen women who have each lost a beloved son i the last 6 years. Watching their/your journey is inspiring and sad all at the same time. Each are making their way forward so differently and yet so boldly. I guess it take courage and boldness and spirit to get through. Thank you for sharing it with me.

      Yours,
      Heidi

      Reply
  2. Dani

    I have to say, the crab stuff sound delicious. My family is Italian so they don’t make Turkey, they make Lasagna. It was only until I visited relatives in TX and NC that I even had Turkey for the first time!

    I miss Lasagna, it’s pretty much turkey all around here. So maybe yummy crabs and lasagna next time for meee!

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      It is so interesting to learn how different we each celebrate the holidays. And Thanksgiving, which is the definitive American holiday, has so many iterations to it. I have enjoyed reading differenl articles this year on how different cultures in different parts of the country celebrate it. Thanks for sharing your lasagna one!

      Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Thanks! How can we go wrong with seafood? Hope you had a nice holiday too. Do you guys celebrate it (or some version of it) in Canada?

      Reply
  3. Lorrie Goldin

    Love this, Heidi. I associate the holiday with big gatherings and over-indulgence, and my least favorite Thanksgiving was the first one when our kids weren’t both with us–we went to a restaurant instead, something I don’t plan to repeat. Our traditions change every few years, but have always involved friends more than extended family. The same was true this year, and we had a wonderful time (even though neither daughter was with us). Since it was at our friends’ house, I was liberated from turkey duty, so we had two great hikes–one across the Golden Gate Bridge on a beautiful day.

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      One thing I learned when we switched from turkey to crab was that as the cook I was liberated from spending all day in the kitchen beforehand! Long hikes in northern CA in November are delicious and so much better for us! I love the “tradition” of getting together with people we care about, but have a hard time with dogma of any sort. When family members heard that we now do Thanksgiving without turkey there were all sorts of comments and raised eyebrows. But the point of the holiday is to be with our loved ones, not the menu! Glad yours was glorious!

      Reply
  4. Melisa

    As you probably know from reading my blog, I am ALL OVER doing traditions in our own new way, so I love this! What great memories your family is making!

    Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      I wish more of our extended family would welcome the “new” traditions. Unfortunately we have some very dogmatic folks around. As for the rest of the holidays, they are being modified as I type due to my accident! Our regular tradition of chopping down a tree might have be replaced for something else as I can’t see how I can handle the drive up to the mountains and a wheel chair in the tree farms. We’ll come up with something!

      Reply
    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Thank you Lisa, the crab was delicious! Unfortunately our unexpected Thanksgiving was even more unexpected that we thought. Look for an update in tomorrow’s blog post!

      Reply
  5. Pingback: Holiday Calamity: The Good, the Bad and the Just Plain Weird! | The Magic of Mothering

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