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To Grandmother’s house we go! Even though I am a grandmother with a house and have been for a while, we haven’t actually gone to any grandmother’s house on Thanksgiving Day for at least 16 years. At my urging, we started this “new” tradition when our oldest was in her first year of college. She was in the marching band and had to return right after Thanksgiving to practice for gameday. So, to optimize our time together we decided to find a place near her and celebrate Thanksgiving there. And, it just so happened that place was close to the beach. I promise you, the beach is a great place to spend Thanksgiving. Several people have asked if we still cook the entire meal, and yes, we do. And sometimes the condos or homes we selected had barely adequate supplies of utensils or pots and pans - to me, the improvising and creativity made it even more fun. You actually CAN make pumpkin pie in soup bowls. And looking out at the beautiful ocean while making stuffing and pumpkin pies is good for your soul and state of mind.

We decided to continue, choosing different locations each year based on the family’s college or work schedules. We had visitors join us a few times - college friends, church friends, boyfriends. We also threw a family reunion or two into the mix.

Some of our best memories are from these vacations together - everyone getting to choose the dish they want to prepare. We snickered a little when one of our daughter’s friends announced that she would contribute and brought her very detailed, step-by-step recipe for mashed potatoes. One year I had a bad case of food poisoning from the previous day’s oyster consumption, leaving my husband and daughter to prepare all of the food. Then, there was the year that the turkey just would not thaw. After days of being in the refrigerator, we came close to wrapping it up and sneaking it down to the hot tub. That’s when we switched to purchasing a popular brand of turkey that is already fully cooked, basted and frozen in its own cooking bag. It turns out perfectly every time as long as you get it in the oven early enough in the day.

There are memories of crabs latching onto toes during long beach walks, yearly viewings of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and returning from dinner out to find 50,000 ants converging on our planned dessert of Krisy Kreme doughnuts. THAT brought tears to our eyes. Not to mention the places we chose that some members of our family believed to be “haunted.” There have been occasional plumbing issues - the worst of which was last year when the sewage backup problems were significant enough that they required moving to the only remaining available “home” in the area. Home is in quotations because it was more of an event facility that had formerly been the local train station. Quite a step up from our sweet, cozy retreat just down the road. Since this was one of our family reunion years, it was a blessing to invite our entire extended family of 30+ to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with us in the “train station.” That Thanksgiving celebration was one for the record books. The time together seemed so precious - the long talks and walks, games and stories, and oh, so much great food. Looking back, it’s as if we had an idea that it would be a very long time before we would be able to gather this way again.

As with everyone these days, our plans this year are quite different. Frankly, I still don’t know if “plans” are even a thing anymore. We haven’t seen our oldest daughter and her family since Christmas of 2019. We tried many times - we had “plans.” But now, we will all be following a prescribed protocol of total quarantine, with testing mid-quarantine, no exposure. We will stay indoors, ordering our food and groceries, like we did back when all of this started. And, though unusual, it will be a Thanksgiving memory to share with our family for years to come, as will most of our experiences from 2020. We will treasure this time and not take for granted our ability to be together for a family Thanksgiving celebration - something we would’ve considered just a part of our regular routine in the past. In fact, this year I think we will finally understand the true definition of being thankful.

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