Thanksgiving tete-a-tete: Awaiting the vegan chili and the other ex.

Photo by 4Neus via Flickr.

My ex got custody of Thanksgiving in the divorce.  Our son would be spending Thanksgiving with his father in New Hampshire, and I’d be all alone on that special Thursday in November that Americans usually spend with family.

My friend Mark was in the same boat. On Thanksgiving, his daughters would be with his ex.  

“Let’s spend Thanksgiving together,” I suggested. 

We dubbed it  “Divorced Persons’ Thanksgiving.” It sure wasn’t traditional. It wasn’t a large family group, just the two of us. And it wasn’t a feast. Both of us are light eaters by nature, and mediocre cooks. The last thing either of us wanted was to spend the day in the kitchen. We did want to acknowledge the holiday, but neither of us liked turkey enough to want to actually cook one. However, Mark makes delicious chili. So we decided to go with turkey chili.  

It turned out to be a lovely day. I read out loud to Mark as he cooked. The chili was outstanding. We relaxed in front of the fire with our books, then walked to the library where I work to empty the book drop. A stroll home was followed by coffee and pumpkin pie.  

We did our best to distract ourselves from the fact that our kids weren’t there. But I missed my son. Although I can’t say I missed getting stuck in holiday traffic, dealing with family tensions, or overeating.  

That was 12 years ago. Mark and I have spent almost every Thanksgiving since then together. The turkey chili has morphed into vegetarian chili, and then vegan chili. And Mark and I have gone from being good friends to being more than just good friends. Otherwise, our holiday hasn’t changed. We continue to enjoy a quiet meal, followed by an afternoon relaxing by the fire. 

And emptying the library book drop has become as much a part of Thanksgiving as pumpkin pie.  

I always miss my son on a day that’s usually about family. (Although now that he’s grown up and married, it’s because he spends the day with his wife’s family.) But when Thanksgiving rolls around, Mark and I always enjoy each other’s company, grateful for another good year.  

This year, because Mark is temporarily living in West Virginia settling his father’s estate, I realized that I’d be on my own for Thanksgiving. My sister’s hospitable in-laws would probably welcome me to their table. (I’m not only good company, I’m a first-class dishwasher.) But I don’t really want to spend hours on the road to get to Long Island, or spend the day in a large group, even a large group of people I love. 

I’ve adjusted to my peaceful, quiet, relaxing Thanksgiving.

I decided that I’d spend the day on my own. Or rather with Captain, our Yorkie-poo. I’d get myself a fabulous turkey sandwich from the deli and pumpkin pie from my favorite bakery. I’d get Captain a turkey sandwich too. Normally limited to kibble, he’d be very thankful to sink his tiny teeth into some delicious holiday poultry.   

Although I felt good about my decision, as Thanksgiving approached I realized that, although Captain can be excellent company, I was really going to miss Mark. Thanksgiving isn’t just another Thursday. And while Divorced Persons’ Thanksgiving isn’t the way most folks would choose to observe this holiday, if I didn’t spend the day with Mark, it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving.

I phoned him. “I know it’s a really long drive and you weren’t planning on coming in for Thanksgiving,” I said. “But I’m really going to miss you.”

“I’ll be there,” he promised.  

I’ve got the chili ingredients ready to go and I’ve put in an order for a pumpkin pie. (And I’m still going to get that turkey sandwich for Captain.) Our celebration may not be traditional, but I’m really looking forward to it. I hope your Thanksgiving is as good as mine. 

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  • Diane Dettmann November 27, 2012 at 9:11 am

    I agree with you Sachet that God places people in our life when we need them the most. Wonder what it was about that Mexican dinner that called to you from the frozen food section, glad you picked it up and life’s good!

  • Roz Warren November 27, 2012 at 6:14 am

    Good for you Sachet! Thanks for sharing your story. I love it when things work out well.

  • Sachet November 26, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    Happy belated Thanksgiving. That was the day he left

  • Sachet November 26, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    How sweet of you to share!
    The best thanksgiving I had was the day my ex-husband moved out.
    My kids were grown and gone and in spite of giving up a lot of money and benefits, I was so happy that this controlling jealous man would soon be out of my life forever.
    So, I chose a Mexican T V dinner, although i am not really fond of Mexican food, It was like FATE because 3 months later I met the man i have been with and married to for the last 20 years and He was general manager for a well- known Mexican restaurant chain. We have had and still have a wonderful marriage without the jealousies and controls. I do believe God puts people in, places in our lives when we need it most. How ironic i had that TV dinner and was so relieved.

  • hillsmom November 25, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Hey Roz, Thanks for an enlightening treatise on your Thanksgiving tradition. My DH and I took the horrid road trip to DD’s et al. Mostly because I haven’t seen my newest grand son since he was released from the NICU. He’s over a year now. I cook the turkey the only way I know how which is in the Weber charcoal cooker. It was quite delicious if I do say so myself. (Does have to be cooked un-stuffed, however.) It must be noted that the weather in ACK was fantastic, but I’m glad to be home.

  • Diane Dettmann November 25, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Thanks for the post, Roz! Over the years, I’ve spent Thanksgivings stuffing turkeys, boiling gravy and setting a fancy table for a crowd of relatives. In spite of all the work, I enjoyed time with my family. During my seven years as a widow, often spending Thanksgivings alone, I realized I didn’t miss all the shopping, cooking, cleaning and stress of the day.

    When I remarried in 2007, we had no established tradition, our holiday celebrations seem to just evolve. This year, my husband and I spent Thanksgiving at the nursing home with his 94 year-old mother. With the three of us gathered around a small round table, we toasted the day of thanks with a plastic glass of Manischewitz wine, shared time with his mother and enjoyed a full Thanksgiving meal—no shopping, cooking or cleanup required! I agree with Toby’sgirl, holidays are what we make them.

  • Isy November 24, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    You’ve found a Thnksgiving ritual that gives you a sense of peace and continuity. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Kelly November 23, 2012 at 10:38 am

    so sweet! so glad you had a good thanksgiving!

  • Ruth nathan November 23, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Can’t think of a cozier day, but, tell me, what’s in a vegan chili that’s got that Thanksgiving pop? Oh, it’s probably just part of the tradition mix. I’m motivated to really think about a Jewish girl’s Christmas Eve. I’ll think of something, but I could use some advice.

  • Just One Boomer (Suzanne) November 22, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    For you, TG wouldn’t be right without Mark. For me, I wouldn’t know it was Thanksgiving unless I was freaked out about roasting a turkey. It’s all good.

  • Tobysgirl November 22, 2012 at 8:39 am

    A great post, Roz. I think if people realized holidays are what we make them, they might enjoy them more. Way too many people, especially women who are too often stuck with the work, hate the holidays and are happy when they’re over. Which is sort of missing the point, to my way of thinking. You’re supposed to enjoy yourself, even if you’re alone, even if you’re with your sweetie pie and no one else. How many people have I known who dreaded spending time with their relatives? How many people have I heard hating eating their Thanksgiving dinner with 20 people, 30 people, 40 people? It is a joy to hear someone writing their own script instead of trying to follow the impossible consumerist fantasy, a joy to hear someone who actually knows how to have a good time!