I Am Woman, Hear Me Write

We give thanks for traditions, old and new

Kate Martin, her husband Paul, and her in-laws, Rose and Ron Carlson.
Kate Martin, her husband Paul, and her in-laws, Rose and Ron Carlson. Provided photo

The holidays are upon us, and that means it’s time to embrace traditions!

Every family has their own quirky customs around the holidays. Looking back on my childhood, this wasn’t my favorite season because of the abundant sweets and gift-giving — even though I loved those. It was the traditions that were passed down from generation to generation, and how we spent time together with family and friends.

Growing up, my Thanksgiving Day always started by watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with my mom and sister. Then we would spend the day in the kitchen, learning how to cook the traditional feast. You were taught a history lesson with each dish — how it was cooked “back in my day,” or the secret ingredient for perfection. The entire family — grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins — would gather around laughing, trading stories and sharing memories. We reflected on years past, how the family has grown, changed, and what may be in store for the year ahead. Always, a big fire was burning in our North Eastern home.

As I got older, I placed such an importance on upholding these traditions that it was hard for me to adapt to change. The biggest change came when I moved to Florida, got married and realized that those traditions wouldn’t be the same. It was time that I learned to compromise and combine with my husband, Paul, and his favorite holiday pastimes.

We discussed how our holiday time would be shared between Maryland and Florida. This meant not only a change for us, but also for our parents and siblings who were used to having us at every holiday. We’ve only been married for two years and I can tell you, this compromise hasn’t been easy. But we remind ourselves of the importance of creating new traditions while establishing our life together.

One of Paul’s favorite family traditions is that his parents have hosted Thanksgiving for over 30 years!

This year, I hosted for the first time, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to uphold all of the favorite aspects of the Carlson Thanksgiving Day!

Sitting with my mother-in-law in preparation for the big day, she shared stories of Thanksgiving pasts. The triumphs and tribulations of too many mashed potatoes, too few seats for the last-minute guests who were always welcomed, and of course the woes of cooking a turkey. I realized that as badly as I wanted the day to be fllawless, it wouldn’t be and that’s OK.

We survived! Thanksgiving Eve was a little bit of a disaster since we were up late, with thin patience, trying to mash 20 pounds of potatoes that wouldn’t cook. I was worried this might be a sign of impending doom.

Thankfully, the day couldn’t have been more perfect! We had many helpful hands in the kitchen. Each family member brought a dish to pass; the same dish they bring to Thanksgiving year after year. Paul took over his father’s role of manning the grill, while I took over my mother-in-law’s role as hostess. At one point during the day, I looked around the room and took it all in — how blessed are we to be able to give thanks while hosting our dearest family and friends.

It was a lot of planning and work, but it was also a privilege. I have a great respect for my in-laws who have hosted for so many years and honored that they would pass on the tradition. The day was different from years past, but that wasn’t a bad thing. It was time to create new memories, start new traditions, and enjoy this time with family.

I have the opportunity to create many more memories with my husband and his family. I might not be able to participate in all of my childhood traditions, but what we start now can be passed on to our children one day. The most important tradition is that we spent a day giving thanks surrounded by the people we love.

Kate Carlson, public relations director at It Works!, can be reached at katec@itworks.com.

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