This is a column I wrote for the Times-Georgian earlier this week. Hope you all enjoy!
It never occurred to me how much I loved spending holidays with family until I was forced to spend them away.
Our family celebrated Thanksgiving together in Disney World one year! Payton clogged when she was younger, and her dance studio had a clogging gig in Tomorrow Land. The four of us made the journey south to the happiest place on earth and celebrated Thanksgiving in Magic Kingdom. It was odd to not celebrate Thanksgiving in the “normal” way, but at least the four of us were together.
I remember my first Thanksgiving not spent with family. The year was 2010, and I was a student manager for Auburn’s football team. My Thanksgiving dinner consisted of steak and baked potatoes with coworkers laughing around a giant table at a restaurant in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. We spent the night in Birmingham ready to take on the Crimson Tide the next day.
I remember thinking how strange it was not to be having dinner with my family. I wasn’t eating ham or turkey. There was no stuffing. Where was the stuffing? The stuffing was being eaten by cousins in Griffin, GA. It was strange to not celebrate Thanksgiving with my family, but I made it. I thought to myself, “Well, this must be what it’s like to grow up.” Little did I know how true that statement would become.
Daddy has regaled many a story from his youth in Carrollton. A story that stuck out to me through the years was the story of his first Christmas away from home. He wasn’t really “away” from home.
His oldest brother, Ronnie, was in Carrollton with his wife for Christmas. Daddy was in college and had an apartment by West Georgia. His old room at the house on Lake Shore Dr. was needed as space for Ronnie and Emilie to sleep. Daddy got the boot. He was told to stay at his apartment and to come back in the morning. He’s told us many times how he felt slighted getting the boot on Christmas Eve, but that night made him grow up. It taught him how to spend at least part of his holiday away from family.
My first Christmas away from family was almost torturous.
I was in Ireland and had been in Ireland for about three months by the time the holidays rolled around. The first thing you should know about Christmas in Ireland is that Christmas begins on November 1 right after Halloween. The rest of the world does not celebrate Thanksgiving, so they can transition from the colors of black and orange right into red and green without blinking. By December, I had seen so many Christmas Trees and elves and presents and shop windows that my mind was about to burst. It didn’t seem real that I had another whole twenty-five days to go!
By the middle of December, I began to realize that I wouldn’t be home for the holiday. I was going to be in Dublin. I was going to miss Christmas Eve with my family and Christmas morning breakfast. It was breaking my heart. Every day I checked the price of flights home for Christmas.
Christmas Eve I cried my eyes out because I knew what I was missing. Christmas morning, I made my own makeshift version of my mom’s Christmas breakfast. It wasn’t anywhere near the same, but I made it. It made me grow up.
I am thankful to be able to spend Christmas with family this year. Grown up or not, there’s nothing quite like being at home for the holidays.