Lonely Thanksgiving: Tales of our Thanksgivings spent without family
Editor's note: Thanksgiving. A time for the entire family to gather around the table, smiling and laughing over a golden turkey as if life is just one big Publix commercial. Fortunately, some people actually get that experience. But many others don't. Maybe you and your family live in totally different states. Maybe you just don't have a family. Maybe you have chosen a family of friends. Or maybe you just don't want to talk to your family at all.We got you covered. All week, we're bringing you our Guide to Lonely Thanksgiving. Our critics and writers have offered their best advice for going the holiday alone, from TV to reading to eating out. It doesn't have to be a pity party. If you do it right, you can be thankful for your solitude, too.
We hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving today. But we are realistic. We know some of you are crying into Chinese food, hitting the Beaujolais and wondering if you’ll be forever alone.
Our writers have suggestions from places to dine to music that will boost your mood.
And know you’re not alone in your loneliness. I asked our writers to share their own memories. Turns out, some found fondness in an unexpected place.
I’m not proud of it. Going back to college after fall break , I agreed to hitch a ride with a boy, with an impromptu side trip to Manhattan that my parents didn’t know about. Weeks later I slipped up with them on the phone, and in classic Irish family form what started as a disagreement swelled to epic conflagration. I was cordially uninvited home for Thanksgiving.
I wouldn’t have gone anyway. And besides, I could stay at the University of Virginia and get work done while everyone else was in a tryptophan coma. With my school books strewn across the living room, I set to work in the kitchen. I would make a big pot of lentil soup. Healthy, cheap and it would easily last me through the four-day weekend.
Thursday lunch: lentil soup. Dinner, soup. Friday lunch, then dinner. Then I hit the wall. Lentils, it turns out, tasted exactly like sadness. To this day, when it’s flavored with too much thyme and a little balsamic vinegar, lentil soup still has the power to make me regret ever having squandered an opportunity to surround myself with those hot-headed, infuriating, beloved people.
One Thanksgiving weekend, I carpooled from home back to college with my old buddy, Creech. His campus was about an hour past mine, but whatever, it’s college, and it’s Creech. I’ve got an hour.
Well, somewhere between Winston-Salem and Burlington, holiday traffic turned I-40 into quicksand. And I mean, we were stuck. Motionless.
One of us, can’t remember who, had a guitar in the back seat. Creech grabbed it and twanged out a few licks, then passed it to me. I had to roll down the window so the fretboard had someplace to go. The looks we got: Two college kids in a traffic morass strumming Cs, Gs, and Ds and howling bad ’90s rock from a Dodge Intrepid.
You’d think losing an hour of your life stranded in traffic would be a miserable way to end a holiday weekend. It actually wasn’t that bad. Our windows stayed down for a while.
Years ago when my son was in law school in Ann Arbor, I flew up to spend the weekend there. He lived in a typical crummy apartment with no realistic kitchen set up for cooking, so we decided to eat out on Thanksgiving.
We trudged around the town and every place was closed. We finally found a $7.96 Indian buffet. It was filled with people like us who had no plans. As we all ate our paneer and naan, I started singing We Gather Together and it became a sing-along.
Colin remains apologetic about that day. I tell him it’s the one Thanksgiving I’ll remember in every detail.
Sad fact of adulthood: Not everyone is off on Thanksgiving. This year, it's my mom, a hostess in a restaurant. In recent years, it's been me, your friendly neighborhood newspaper editor/designer. Most days that the rest of the world is off, the people who put together your newspaper are not. Often editors and designers, among others, are working on holidays and weekends and evenings to get you a newspaper the next day.
So, yeah, I've had a few Thanksgivings and Christmases sans the big happy family. A particularly memorable one came up a few years ago when I was at the Times' sister publication tbt*. Now in addition to working holidays, newspaper editors and designers also work evening shifts, so I woke up late to an empty house — my sister and her family who I lived with had gone home to the rest of the family — except for Sammy the schnoodle and Buster the lhasa apso.
So I let Sammy climb into bed with me and binge watched about three Bollywood movies while eating cereal and ordinary leftovers Buster liked better than I did.
Then I got up, went to work and assembled a turkey out of fruit for the regular Times/tbt* holiday potluck.
Yeah, I didn't get any of my Gammy's mac and cheese, but dinner with the Times/tbt* family wasn't half bad either.