In the Suburbs: Reflecting on some unusual Thanksgivings

File photo of a Thanksgiving meal.

File photo of a Thanksgiving meal.

Tetra Images/Getty Images / Tetra images RF

Every year I am grateful for so many things at Thanksgiving. I am so grateful for my beautiful wife and our lovely daughters, our son-in-law and our miracle grandsons. And I can never leave out other members of our extended family and so many friends and acquaintances who are part of our lives,

Of course, I am so thankful for our health, despite a tough year that included two different kinds of cancer, our mild cases of COVID and some ridiculous pre-Thanksgiving “plague” I picked up at school last week; the comfort of our cozy home and the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving annually with my wife’s wonderful and huge family in Virginia.  

But this year I decided to get off my usual thankfulness tack and think about more unusual Thanksgivings that we’ve spent.

Our unusual Thanksgiving  happened during COVID when we couldn’t be with any family and Zoom was our only means of connection. “Hey,” I said to my wife, “who says we have to follow our usual food traditions and make turkey? How about a prime rib dinner from Ralph and Richies in Bridgeport?”

My wife loved the idea and it was the most spectacular Thanksgiving dinner we’ve had in a long time.  We stuffed ourselves on prime rib, mashed potatoes and home made bread and even had leftovers. And we followed up dinner with a wonderful Zoom call to my wife’s family in Virginia — they had decided to get together since distance wasn’t a factor.  Our daughters joined the call and it was great to catch up. It was a truly different and unusual Thanksgiving.  

Nancy, a colleague from the bookstore where I work, shared, “I don’t have anything too unusual… just staying home during COVID in our pod of three… eating Boston Market … missing being with the rest of my family …And  I remember the weather was also very mild. We were very thankful we were all healthy." 

“We Spent a Thanksgiving in London one year,” my teacher friend Eric told me. “So it was more of a Thursday. No turkey on the menu. But the chips and malt vinegar were divine.”

My Weight Watcher friend Bernice told me at our regular meeting this past Saturday that as a 21-year-old new mom she had prepared her first Thanksgiving turkey for her inlaws. “Imagine my shock,” she said, “when I realized that the slight burning smell from my turkey came from the bag of giblets and chicken livers I had left inside. The first ‘yuch’ came from my inlaws but the second one came from our daughter, which made my mistake even more painful. That was definitely a very unusual Thanksgiving.”

One Thanksgiving, many years before COVID, when we were more adventuresome travelers, our younger daughter Jeri invited us to Ann Arbor, Mich. for her first Thanksgiving with her soon-to-be husband Gervasio. She was making the turkey and an apple pie. We didn’t want to disappoint her, but we had three dogs and one of them, our beloved cocker spaniel Truffie, could not be left with the dog-care lady who took care of our two Jack Russell terriers. So, Truffle came to Ann Arbor with us. He was a great passenger.  

What really made that Thanksgiving unusual was the mix of Jeri’s Thanksgiving goodies, including her delicious apple pie, and Gervasio’s amazing Mexican dishes. And Truffie’s begging, of course, really made the holiday special. It was all worth the drive.  

Our cousins Scott and Becky from Raleigh are going to Tennessee this year to see her family, but Becky shared this unexpected vignette, which wasn’t as unusual as surprising. “Our scariest Thanksgiving was the year Scott found out he needed to have heart bypass surgery a couple of days before Thanksgiving and they sent us home to wait for a week so that all the anti-coagulants could clear his system. And of course they say don’t do anything that might stress your heart during that time. I don’t even remember if we had a turkey that year but fortunately his vessels stayed clear until the next week when they could go in and reroute everything.”

One of my closest friends, Marilen (we go way back to high school) from Saint Louis, shared an experience that was the icing on the cake for me. Actually, her unusual Thanksgiving will be happening on the Saturday after the holiday when her grandson gets married in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.  
But, in addition to this special wedding, Marilen talked about the excitement of spending Thanksgiving for the first time in several years with son and daughter and their families, who live on opposite coasts, her other daughter will arrive the day after Thanksgiving.  

I was really grateful that many folks I value in my life agreed to share their unusual holiday experiences. And now we’re looking forward to our regular get together in Virginia. With our younger daughter and her husband flying in from Michigan to join our older daughter and our grandsons to join us and some 20 others in my wife’s family, the prospect of a nonstop eat and drink-a-thon, this Thanksgiving could definitely get very unusual.

So stay tuned.     

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at