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My small town, southern husband grew up living near all these different branches of his family. Thanksgiving was a time for them all to get together and cook great big, traditional Thanksgiving dinners. He told me he would then often drive over to friends' houses and eat at there as well. Thanksgiving was a big holiday for his family. At my house, Christmas was the big holiday. Thanksgiving was the last stop before Christmas. We always decorated the day after Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving meant day-after sales (my favorite). You can imagine the look on his face a year or two ago when I suggested forgoing the traditional turkey dinner for something more fun-- something my family often did-- tacos. (Hey, we lived in California.) I managed to avoid any serious Thanksgiving conversations on our old boat because his division was always invited to a big Thanksgiving dinner at his chief's house. Here in North Carolina we are on our own; Thanksgiving became my problem.

Last year I went through the motions and stressed over the prep work. Don't get me wrong; I loved the fruits of my labor, but it was a labor. This year I excitedly flipped through recipes, fine tuning last year's feast. I took pictures all along the way to text to my parents. I baked four pies and a cheesecake. It was a rush and I loved it! As we were cleaning up, I told my husband about my plans for next year. That's when I realized I've become a person that loves Thanksgiving. So what does Thanksgiving mean to me?

Thanksgiving is about the only time in the year where I make multiple side dishes and cook for three days. Thanksgiving revolves around good food. I had a table set up just to hold the food! There was, of course, also a centerpiece (we had company). We dragged in our big folding table and set that up for eating. I bought a pretty table cloth and placemats and used my favorite decorating trick-- candles. Thanksgiving is about a festive mood. (The festive mood did arrive after my husband and I's fight about cooking the turkey. But what would Thanksgiving be without a fight over how to cook the turkey?) We laughed and snacked and hovered around the oven. We dressed the kids in some of their cuter clothes (read: not sweatpants and not stained). We talked about Thanksgivings in the past and where we will be next year. We talked about how much our kids had grown. When company arrived, we talked about family and the silliness of our kids. Thanksgiving is about quality time and reflection. I had a Thanksgiving day schedule of when what dish goes in the oven, for how long, and at what temperature. From 0830 to 1300, my oven was on. With all that time management, I still felt relaxed. We opened "bubbly" (apple cider) and later the adults had white then chocolate wine. I wore a silk shirt and my husband put on a pair of slacks. We helped each other out with the dishes and found the kids shenanigans amusing. Thanksgiving is about enjoying your blessings.

Next year we probably won't be living in this house for Thanksgiving, though we could be. Most likely we will be in South Carolina. My husband will be in power school. The year after that, we will most likely be back on a boat. Will he be home then? We have already spent many holidays and birthdays apart, between underways and duty days. It is such a treat to enjoy the holiday the day of the holiday. We know how blessed we are just to have my husband home to cut the turkey, something many of our military friends do not have this year. For us, Thanksgiving is also a time where we thank God for all the people serving in the military.

It took my husband almost six years. Persistence pays off; I'm now a Thanksgiving person. I'm looking forward to next year's feast, cracking open my Thanksgiving recipe book, and starting our own holiday traditions. I can't wait to read Real Simple's November 2013 issue. I love the idea of my children eagerly anticipating my many pies or for leftover turkey pot pie. I can already picture my boys excitedly planning playing football with Daddy Thanksgiving afternoon or napping during the game post-feast.

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving!


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