Once upon a time, when I was still in high school, I spent Thanksgiving at DKR Stadium on the campus of The University of Texas, as a guest of my brother's for the Longhorn-tamu game. All throughout college and graduate school, I spent Thanksgiving either in my hometown with my family, or in Austin, depending on where the parentals and my siblings decided to gather and whether the football team was any good that year.
After we got married, we spent most Thanksgivings with my husband's family. The Valley, where my parents were, was just too far away to drive for a 4-day turnaround, especially once the boys arrived. We hosted everyone at our house the first year we moved into it (after a frenzied last-minute painting party that ended about the same time we put the turkey into the oven) but usually my mother-in-law handled the Thanksgiving Day duties. She loved to cook, and to pull out the fancy china and set up the big dining room for her family and anyone else who might need a spot at the table. For her, the meal was an all-important highlight of the day in which we gave thanks for the ability to be together as a family.
For the longest time, she would refuse to let anyone help - the woman did not believe in pot-luck. After a few years, I was allowed to bring a dessert or two, and ultimately, my skillz earned me the permanent role of Thanksgiving baker. When she passed away, my sister-in-law and I decided to alternate hosting, although my hosting style is much more carefree and spontaneous. I do drag out the good plates (UT Longhorn china, natch!) and we put on a big spread, but I willingly accept any and all offers of help in the kitchen!
When I started running, my role in the Thanksgiving festivities was actually perfect, because I could always bake ahead of time and still make it to the Turkey Trot races. If I ran fast and didn't linger afterward (easier to do when I didn't know so many Frunners), I could even see some of the Macy's Day Parade before getting dressed and heading over to the in-laws. The FW YMCA Trot became very much a part of the tradition for us, and a couple of years in there, I even got the boys to either run with me or at least come out to cheer. I missed the Turkey Trot in 2010 because I had my silly gallbladder removed that week and the doctor didn't think a 10k was a good idea. pffft. In 2011, I ditched the FW Trot that I had run for so many years and stayed closer to home with the Arlington Trot at the Ballpark.
Last year, my sister-I-choose and I hit up the new Cox Running Club 5k on the Trinity Trail and came away with a giant medal. This year, she's not able to run with me, but I found myself someone else to share pre-turkey race day with - my husband! He had been slowly adding on miles to his treadmill workouts, to the point that he was running 10 miles at a time just for kicks. I told him if you are training for something, it makes sense to run 10 miles at a time, but if you don't have a race on the schedule, you're just crazy. And he listened! So on Thursday morning, he and I will leave our house, with the boys still snoozing, I'm sure, at some crazy hour so we can be on the start line for his first half-marathon. I can't wait.
Afterward, we'll pile into the Jeep and head north to my brother-in-law's house. My sister-in-law and fresh little nephew should be released from the hospital by tomorrow, if all goes well. We've ordered a ready-made turkey that can just be popped in the oven to warm so we can eat and be ready for Cowboys' kick-off at 3 and the Longhorn game afterward. I will be baking a couple of desserts tomorrow night, per the request of the returning freshman. And while we will definitely have a low-key dinner, probably on paper plates to eliminate the need for too much clean-up, the focus of the day isn't so much on the food as on the people with whom we share the day, and the traditions that tie us together year after year.
What do you and your family do to celebrate Thanksgiving??