“Why are you making such a big fuss over this?” Mika asked. “You don’t even do Thanksgiving.”
“I… I’m trying to change that,” I stammer. Talking over the phone was awkward enough for me. The topic at hand only made it worse.
“I see that. But why?”
I fully understand her surprise. My sister, only a year older than me, watched every year as I didn’t give two damns about Thanksgiving. I stayed to myself for most of the day, surfacing just long enough to consume the food placed in front of me, drop my plate in the sink, and retreat back to my room.
Why should I have cared back then? Thanksgiving was no different from any other day. We didn’t travel to visit family, which all lived on opposite ends of the state thanks to everyone’s jobs. I understand there’s lots to do in Philly, but nothing (including their siblings) could get my parents to go there, and this was one time that, even as a teenager, we were in complete agreement.
My parents, for their part, didn’t exactly stay close to home either. Pittsburgh and Erie may be on the same side of Pennsylvania, but one could high-five Buffalo, while the other hikes with West Virginia. When we were young, they braved the cold and 79 North traffic a couple of times, and by the time we grew up, the adults had drifted apart out of convenience.
So as high schoolers, Mika and I couldn’t remember ever having Thanksgiving with anyone other than just our parents, the same way we did every other night of the year. Was the extra food and non-stop football games worth getting all excited for? I never liked turkey, and I don’t do sports either. I knew the Steelers needed to win, but I didn’t care enough to tell anyone about it.
After graduation, I went to college out-of-state. Sure, I may not have gone all that far, deciding on a place in Ohio, a state whose cities were closer to us than most of Pennsylvania’s. But going to OSU put me three hours from home, giving me more freedom than I ever had before.
I loved it. I loved it so much that when I applied for jobs, I scooted ever farther away, to Cincinnati. If there was a part of Ohio that was far from Pittsburgh, this was it (though it was still closer than our extended family in Philly). I spent three years there living like a bachelor, hosting LAN parties, hitting up board game nights, and occasionally following a friend into a bar.
When Thanksgiving rolled around, I’d call my parents and Mika. My sister, having gone off to Chatham University a year before me, didn’t venture all that far to go to school. While she later found a job that also brought her to Ohio, living in a place just outside of Youngstown meant she was little more than an hour’s drive from our parents. That made it all the more sad when I had to place separate calls each year, for the three of them hadn’t decided to get together.
Somehow, they all seemed okay with the way things were. I figured Mom and Dad wanted to nag us, that they were deeply unhappy eating alone each year, but they were doing their best not to bother us. But as I thought back on how things were, this seemed less and less like the case. Maybe were didn’t stop visiting my grandparents on Thanksgiving out of inconvenience. Perhaps my parents genuinely didn’t care about the holiday, and the distance seemed like as good as any excuse not to bother any more than they had to. The tendency seemed to run in our family.
Now, at almost 26, something about this makes wears on me. I’m in no rush to get married, or even start a relationship, but somewhere in accepting that I won’t be creating a family of my own anytime soon, I find myself caring more about the people already in my life. For most of my life, that meant friends, not my sister or my parents. But as most of those connections have faded, these three are still around. I should do something to keep things that way. I don’t want to hit 30 and realize that those, too, have disappeared with the years.
“I miss you,” I say. “I miss everyone.”
“This is coming from you?” she asks.
“Yeah, who else would it come from?”
“I’m just surprised.”
“So I’ll swing up to get you?”
“There’s no reason for you to go that far out of the way. I’ll meet you there.”
“Have you asked Mom and Dad yet?”
“I’m calling them next.”
“How do you want to do the food?”
This will take some planning. It doesn’t help that I don’t particularly like most Thanksgiving food, especially the main dish. But this time, I want to make an impression. I want to do things right.
“I’ll bring the turkey.”