This past weekend got me thinking about traditions. They are a funny thing. As an adult, you cling to the smallest memories from your childhood. Recently my husband made me ‘egg toast’ and was so excited about it. He talked about how his mom had always made it for him for breakfast on cold winter mornings. He prepped the plate carefully by hand. But when it arrived, it didn’t look like a memory to me, it looked like a mess. The egg was cut up over the bread, the yolk oozing over the whole plate. And although I ate it, it didn’t look very appetizing. It’s kind of the same thing with Thanksgiving. Everyone has their weird family thing they have to do every year. Ours might be watching ‘Home for the Holidays’ and reveling in the dysfunction of Holly Hunter and her parents and brother. Or getting into heated family arguments and resolving it all with whiskey and a cozy fire. I once knew a girl whose family made stuffing from White Castle burgers mashed up. If you have ever had a White Castle burger you know how disgusting this is, and she fully admitted as much, and yet, there it was, year after year.
This Thanksgiving there were only four people at the table, the smallest Thanksgiving I’ve ever attended. It was my husband and I, and my parents; Charley was napping. We didn’t watch our movie, and even though we ate turkey, there wasn’t much tradition to it. And there was a moment when we were all quietly eating when I finally understand why people have more than one child. It was this, this loneliness. The food was delicious, and it was relaxing in a quiet, weird way, but mostly I just missed the chaos. I felt grateful that I was pregnant again, and Charley would have at least one sibling. My one brother was absent but came later. I just kept thinking of this being the example of what the New York Times referred to as ‘a back-end investment’ when having children. You put in so much work up front, but you hope it all pays off when you are in your fifties and sixties and have a busy, full table for the holidays.
My husband felt the same way, and later after we went back to our own house, we agreed we could even think about a third child. The idea of a Thanksgiving with only two people when we were aging seemed strange and sad. My tradition was steeped in chaos, in years of extended family members and cousins and babies. I knew I would want that again, that a part of me craved the chaos of family all around, and I was slowly realizing that you had to make your own family in the end.