Audrey Bowers is a junior English education major and writes "Adult-ish" for the Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We found ourselves nestled into a Super 8 on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee next door to an all night jazz club that wasn’t going to stop playing music until 3 in the morning. This wasn’t how my mom and I expected to be spending Thanksgiving break together, but we were thankful for a place to sleep and time to spend together.
At first, we were just going to stay at my apartment in Muncie for Thanksgiving break. That idea didn’t sound appealing for long. We had argued about what our plans would be. Life had been tough, so I honestly considered just spending the holiday alone instead of riding in mom’s car for three to four hours to my little, southern Indiana hometown.
I found myself wishing that things could be like they used to be, in “the good ole days.” Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. The Macy’s parade, the all day feast of delicious home-cooked food, playing cards, drinking coffee and not thinking once about leaving the couch or kitchen table to do anything other than refilling your plate or cup. Don’t get me wrong, we were dysfunctional, but at least we were all together.
Everything changes, for better or for worse.
The last few years we haven’t really been invited to Thanksgiving dinner. This year, grandma said the family wasn’t doing anything. I’ve grown so distant from my family because of the literal distance and because of my shortcomings as the person who became responsible for reaching out first.
Reaching out can be exhausting when there’s no one reaching back.
For the most part, I stopped doing so. I still call every once in awhile, but it’s never as often as I should.
My family understands, but I still feel like I am failing as a daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin, aunt, etc. My aunt, who usually does the cooking, has been battling lung cancer. It was over break that I learned that she had been placed on hospice care.
Of course Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same. It couldn’t be the same.
Nothing will ever be the same again. As much as that makes me want to fall apart into pieces, it is something that I will have to learn to live with.
Mom and I found ourselves eating Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant instead of at home. We found comfort in a cheap hotel room. We were each other's’ family, underdogs in the game of Thanksgiving. We realized that we weren’t the type of people to naturally belong anywhere. We made a place for ourselves, even if it was a hotel room or the front seats of my mom’s small car as we circled the city.
So we went shopping at the malls, to a wax museum, out to eat at the restaurants, to the Opryland Hotel to see the Christmas lights, to an art museum, the library, a local coffee shop, a local bookstore, and at the end of the weekend, we went to listen to live music in the Honky Tonk bars.
We laughed. We sang. We cried.
We screamed at each other. We found ourselves sitting in the silence because it spoke louder than our words ever could.
We fought. We forgave. We promised to be there for one another when no one else would be.
Our Thanksgiving was not ideal or “normal” by any means. We were the outcasts of the family, but we were thankful anyways. Life doesn’t have to be perfect in order to have the ability to be thankful and show gratitude. Being thankful isn’t a feeling or a Snapchat filter. It is a choice. In one moment, I can be thankful; the next I can be completely ungrateful. Regardless of the circumstances, choosing to be thankful is the important thing. Even in the hardest of times and the lowest of valleys, there is at least one thing to be thankful for.