My parents, sister and I hectically traveled between the Groeninger and Fabiano sides of our family. With our extended family spread from California to Florida, I valued these times because it allowed me to reconnect with family and engage in spirited debates (read: arguments) over politics, sports and even music.
Sometimes it turned into show and tell, like the time my uncle performed a handstand on Grandpa's walker. It was quite impressive, until he flipped over and landed on my sister's back. These memories will be with me forever.
However, as we grow, traditions change. Today, several of my cousins are in college or working in different cities across the country, and some have families of their own. My older sister, Andrea, lives in Phoenix.
While having such a scattered family provides an enviable list of vacation destinations, it doesn't always allow for the gatherings of past holidays. My sister, a teacher, hasn't been home for Thanksgiving since she moved to Arizona nine years ago. I remember the strange feeling of her first absence from the festivities, but now she has her own Phoenician Thanksgiving traditions.
Just as my sister did nine years ago, it's time for me to forge my own holiday traditions.
The reality of my own adulthood hit me this year, as I'll be spending Thanksgiving Day in central Illinois for the first time. Although I'll be far from the traditions I grew up with, I'm fortunate to have time with the people who have become an important part of my new tradition. And while we may not be together this year, I will surely hear the details on the feast in Rockford and check my sister's finishing time for her Turkey Trot out west.
I realize more than ever just how lucky I am to have grown up with the traditions of my youth and to have the opportunity to build new traditions. I'm thankful for all the family traditions and experiences I've had that have shaped the person I am today.
Once a year, we gather with my mom's large and loud extended family. Three generations take over a restaurant for dinner, music and hoopla. Sometimes there's karaoke, and there's often trivia. Occasionally trivia leads to some familial disagreement, such as who in the family makes the best sugo. (The answer, obviously, is my grandma.)
I'm enjoying blending these old traditions with the new. This year, I'm most thankful for my magnificent parents and wonderful grandparents who introduced me to family traditions, while allowing me to branch out and create new traditions.