Giving Thanks for Thanksgiving

By Lisa Sugarman

Here we are again. Back to my favorite week of the year. God, that was fast. Seems like it was only a few weeks ago when we were all sitting around the Thanksgiving table, gorging on pumpkin whoopie pies and mountains of buttery mashed potatoes, passing platters of stuffing and turkey around the overcrowded dining room.

The year speeds so fast that it’s hard to believe a full twelve months have gone by since we were all in each other’s company like this. Hard to believe that all the kids are a year older. That my oldest is coming home from college now to spend the holiday with the family. Hard to believe that we can all still manage to polish off most of the holiday food in about forty-eight hours—always a great exercise in togetherness and family unity.htt_thanksgiving_dinner_im1

It’s been more than ten years now since my mother-in-law officially passed me the Thanksgiving baton, giving me the chance to build my own legacy of holiday traditions. And every year since I’ve understood more and more why it was so hard for her to let go of hosting the holiday when she and my father-in-law retired to Florida. There’s something so unique and beautiful about a holiday that has no religious aspect, no gift-giving expectation, no tree or candle-lighting, no praying, yet still manages to unite everyone.

Instead, it’s all about worshipping the bird and the cowhide and the pecan pie. It’s about who can eat more cream squares in a twenty-four-hour period, Dave or his cousin Matt. (It usually ends in an ugly tie.) It’s about securing prime real estate on the couch after dinner and being willing to throw down with any aunt or uncle or nephew who tries to sneak into your spot when you get up to use the bathroom. It’s about judging which family member is snoring louder after dessert, when the sugar and white-flour coma overtakes them and leaves them paralyzed and drooling. It’s about just being together and being thankful that you are. Nothing more. Nothing less.11_07_002122.jpg

And it’s funny because I remember thinking, when I was the little girl running through our kitchen trying to swirl my finger into one of the pies without getting caught, that I’d never be able to pull off such a big event with so many moving parts. I just couldn’t imagine having the upper body strength to lift that four-thousand-pound turkey in and out of the oven all those times during the day to baste it just right. Let alone make sure that everything came out hot at exactly the same time. Or be able to afford buying all that food.

Somehow, though, I became worthy of inheriting the holiday. I’m not entirely sure how but I did. Maybe it was timing or location or that I was just stupid enough to want to take it on; but every year that I’m fortunate enough to host, I feel more and more blessed that our house has become the epicenter of such an important day.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m thankful for Thanksgiving. Super thankful. Because that’s that one day of the year when I have an almost one hundred percent guarantee that nearly all of the people I love most in the world will be sitting within hugging distance of me, all day.

See, the older I get, the more I realize that having my family around me is the only thing that really matters to me anymore. (Well, that and Zappos.) That even in spite of all the effort and preparation and post-game clean-up that goes into the holiday, I’m just grateful to be the one who gets to celebrate it under my roof.

Kitchen-MessNow I know there’s a lot to be said for baking a pie, climbing in the car, sucking up a little bit of traffic, showing up at someone else’s table, eating, digesting, and climbing back in the car. In a lot of ways that sounds like a delightful way to spend the holiday. And for some people it’s perfect. But for me, personally, the real beauty in Thanksgiving is found in all the preparation that goes into orchestrating the holiday. By that I mean that I actually relish the opportunity to destroy my kitchen while drinking a harmless little glass (or two) of pinot and listening to holiday music. I’ve always just loved the anticipation leading up to special occasions, almost as much as the occasions themselves.

Look, I know I’m odd, but it’s what makes me happy. And it’s what always made my mom and my mother-in-law happy. So while I guess that makes all of us a little bit kooky because we enjoy all the madness that Thanksgiving brings, it’s a good kind of kooky. The kind I wouldn’t trade for anything.

rolling-pin-passing-hands-ready-cooking-closeup-portrait-two-isolated-white-background-49010284And that ultimately means that my girls are going to have to beat me over the head with a turkey leg to get me to pass the tradition of hosting on to them. But even though I’m never going to want to give it up, I’m also not going to want to deprive them of the same warped kind of joy that I’ve gotten from hosting Thanksgiving all these years.

So get ready, girls. You’re on deck. But you’re gonna be in the dugout for awhile, so get comfortable.

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on and at select Whole Foods Market stores.








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