I'm not what you'd call Tradition Girl.
In fact, I don't have very many holiday habits that would even be considered "traditions," and I think it's partly because I married and had kids late. There were many years in there spent with roommates, friends, dates and by myself, and I'm probably single-handedly responsible for misplacing every tradition my parents might have once had.
But our Thanksgiving tradition was always especially nice, so I tried to get home for it as often as I could, or at least as often as it was convenient. When we were about ready to have our first child, however, nice as it was, it became less convenient.
"Mom," I said that year, "I'm about 15 months pregnant and need a shoehorn to get in the car. Maybe you'd better come here this year." Two years later I had my second child two days before Thanksgiving, and we no longer went home. Chalk another one up to me.
Everyone now comes to our house. My parents bring the turkey, arriving the day before Thanksgiving with a styrofoam cooler, which my father carries because it weighs about 60 pounds. (I know this from their annual argument about "how much turkey is too much?") Mom makes the stuffing that night and puts the turkey in the oven some time before dawn the next morning. I know this because I have small children.
My mom has cooked the turkey every year since I was born. Yes, I admit it: I have never put my hand into the nether regions of a big dead bird to pull out the innards. I have no idea how to make stuffing, or why, when I look into the oven, I see a pan of said stuffing cooking with what can only be a neck on top. I have no idea if a sweet potato is actually a yam. But this is all okay. My job is to set the table and clean it up.
So my mother's call last week took me by surprise. She was hemming and hawing about something until I said, "Mom, spit it out. It's me, your favorite child. You can tell me anything."
"Okay," she said finally. "You know how busy your father and I have been lately?" (They're both retired, which really means, "Psych! The kids are gone! Woohoo!")
"Yes, I know," I replied, getting a little worried.
"Well, your brother's flying into Buffalo on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and I have classes right up until Wednesday morning..."
"Mom, what are you saying?" I asked, really anxious now. "You're not coming?"
"Good Lord, of course we're coming!" she laughed. I started to relax. "But about the turkey..." she continued.
"No!" I screamed. "No, please don't make me do it! I'm not ready! Mommy always makes the turkey! Please, don't do this to me!" Suddenly I'm Tevya from "Fiddler on the Roof." "Tradition, Mom! Tradition! You do the cooking, and I do the cleaning! That's the way it's always been!"
My mom listened intently, once again in awe of the fact that I found a great husband. "Actually," she said, "I was just going to ask if you could buy it this year. I'm just not going to have time to buy it fresh, and I don't have the space to defrost a frozen."
That in itself was news to me. I didn't know they came two different ways.
"Buy the turkey!" I cried. "Of course I can buy the turkey! Good grief, is that all? Ha ha ha..." I hung up visibly relieved. After a moment, however, I realized that in my relief, I'd momentarily lost sight of the implication behind the exchange. My husband, watching me, asked, "What's wrong?"
"What's wrong?!" I said. "There's no respect for tradition, that's what's wrong! Buy the turkey --- hrrmph!"