We could look at the first real Thanksgiving, when Native Americans and English Puritans ate venison, corn, and shellfish for three days. Nice.
Instead, we’re talking about your various first Thanksgivings. The memorable ones that still warm your heart — or the gray November Thursdays that were an unmitigated disaster.
All those firsts add up to what Thanksgiving means to you.
The first Thanksgiving in memory.
I was the youngest of six kids, seated around our long, oval table with the center leaf added to make room for my brother’s wife, who was expecting. I was four, so the memories are hazy, but I’m sure that was the year I discovered my fondness for turkey legs.
What was your first Thanksgiving like?
Noisy, crowded? Quiet, cozy? Was your mom crying because the turkey wasn’t done until 8:30? Did your brother toss rolls at you butter side up? Did they make you eat pumpkin pie, insisting a dessert made of squash would eventually grow on you?
The first Thanksgiving after moving out.
I woke up in my efficiency apartment decorated in early Salvation Army, eager for a visit home to see my family and eat all the food I could no longer afford. I didn’t take a single covered dish. I was clueless. But they were happy to see me. Only my oldest brother noticed I was stoned. I was nineteen.
What happened the first time you went back home for Thanksgiving?
Did the house look utterly familiar yet strangely different? Was the menu the same, or did rogue vegetable dishes appear in the kitchen? Were your sisters (brothers, cousins, somebody) picking on each other constantly? Next year will be better. That’s what we tell ourselves. Hope is a good thing.
The first Thanksgiving alone.
In my early twenties, working six days a week in faraway Detroit, I couldn’t get home to eastern Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving. So, I did the drive-thru at McDonald’s. Yes, really. Told myself it was just another Thursday. Didn’t believe it for one Detroit minute.
Have you spent a Thanksgiving by yourself?
It can be a real character-building exercise. Smart people do things for others and genuinely give thanks for their many blessings. I’ll bet that’s your story. Sadly, it wasn’t mine. Not yet.
The first Thanksgiving at someone else’s house.
Lots of memories here, all good. The stuffing wasn’t like Mom’s sage dressing, and I didn’t know all the family jokes. Still, they hugged me, fed me, and sent me home with leftover turkey and cranberry relish. I was genuinely grateful. A start.
Has someone invited you to join them for Thanksgiving?
Friends? Coworkers? How did that go? Is there one dish you take everywhere (mine is cabbage-apple-raisin slaw). What made you glad you went? Do you ever invite strays to your table on Turkey Day?
Your first Thanksgiving with a spouse.
Negotiations began in August. If we go to this in-laws’ house on Thanksgiving, we’ll visit the other in-laws for Christmas. Bill and I got engaged on Thanksgiving at his parents’ house, and then the following Thanksgiving discovered I was pregnant with their first grandchild. We earned enough brownie points to cover us for thirty years.
If you are or have been married, what was your first Thanksgiving together like?
Did you cry when the turkey wasn’t done — wait, that was your mom. How did your list of favorite dishes mesh with your spouse’s? Was it romantic? Funny? A bust? Maybe it’s a good thing a marriage has only one first Thanksgiving.
Your first Thanksgiving with a baby in the house.
Sorry, don’t remember. It happened. The food was edible. The baby wore most of it.
Maybe your memory is more dependable.
If you had a baby join you at the big people’s table in a highchair, was she wearing a “My First Thanksgiving” bib? Did he chase peas around his tray? Did she fling mashed potatoes from the end of her spoon? Did you video the child’s shenanigans for blackmail purposes later?
A first Thanksgiving with God.
I was 27, unmarried, and uncertain about a God who said He loved me. But the friends who invited me to sit at their table loved Him dearly and assured me He loved them — and me. This simple truth remains more filling than any Thanksgiving feast ever served, from 1621 to now.
Do you remember your first Thanksgiving as a believer?
If you’ve known God since childhood, maybe this is the year to put Him at the head of the table. If you’ve met Him recently, how might this year be different for you? And if you’ve wondered where He’s gone, why He’s not more present to you, or how you can restore a relationship with Someone you can’t touch or see, this is the year.
Make God welcome in your home. Open His Word at your table. Light the candles with His name on your lips. And pray like He’s listening. Because He is.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Thank you for taking me on a Thanksgiving walk down Memory Lane…some of it good…some of it not so good. One fact does remain, however, that God has been faithful. Even if Thanksgiving was a bust, the reason for giving thanks has always been good to me. I’m almost embarrassed to admit this (but your post has me thinking); we read scripture at Christmas around the table, but have not done it at Thanksgiving. We pray and share things we’re thankful for, but we have not shared God’s word…and how long have I been a Christian?? Never too late to start a good and fitting tradition!
May you have a blessed Thanksgiving…
Liz Curtis Higgs says
Delighted to take that walk with you, Bev. God is indeed faithful! Let’s do bring His Word to our table and see what happens this year!
Linda Miltzow says
Happy-in-Jesus Thanksgiving, Liz!
What a wonderful way to share this day with others, with ourselves. Looking back and forward to Our faithful Lord in our lives. As I read your words this day of thanks and praise to our Great God, “My Story” by Big Daddy Weave plays on the radio! Beautiful reminder from both of you this morning…”This is my story, this is my song–praising my Savior all the day long!”
Liz Curtis Higgs says
Yes, He IS our story and our song, dear Linda. SO grateful for His presence, today especially.
Our first Thanksgiving as a couple was spent with my husband’s family. His mom is a great cook, and they gave me their recipe for sweet potato casserole (never knew they could taste so yummy).
Have a Happy Thanksgiving Liz.
Liz Curtis Higgs says
Oh, yum. A real favorite that one. With or without marshmallows? Amazing, how a single dish can strike a memory of holidays past. Have a beautiful day in the Lord!
Brandi Luiz says
Recognizing that God’s hands are on all aspects of the lives of my children, even though I sometimes feel like I need to intervene. He is so good, all the time!
Liz Curtis Higgs says
He IS good, Brandi, and knows our children far better than we do. At 26 and 28, our children amaze us with their wisdom and kindness and common sense. All glory to God on that one!
Beth Williams says
Great walk down memory lane! I remember being away at college and one family from the church I attended invited me to their house. It was nice to go and spend the day with others. My first Thanksgiving with my hubby we went to my parents house and then to my in-laws. potato casserole!! A good Thanksgiving was 2009. My mother died in August leaving my dad alone. I called my in-laws and they said he could come over. He went for the next 2-3 years!! I would also make plates of food for him to take home.
Fast forward a few years: My in-laws are older and have medical issues so now we host the dinner at my house. She My mother-in-law is a great cook. She made a great broccoli and sweet makes broccoli casserole, and a dessert. I get the meal from grocery store and heat it up!! These last two years have been a little tougher. My dad is in assisted living and on hospice. Kind of a sad time for me!!
Liz Curtis Higgs says
It’s a reality of life that the holidays get harder when we lose people we love, or we watch older family members struggle with health or mobility issues. Sometimes that means taking the pressure off THE DAY and simply making sure to connect in person sometime during this sacred season. At the Higgs house, we give ourselves permission to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas on a day other than what the calendar says, in order to accommodate everyone’s schedule. Then, when the “real” day rolls around, it’s blissfully quiet and satisfying, like a found day. Ahhhh.
Sorry this is so late. I really enjoyed your post Liz, thank-you.
I hope you all had a very Happy, Blessed Thanksgiving.
Michele Morin says
I love this. The memory it resurrected for me was the first Thanksgiving with my new husband. We were at his folks — one in the throes of dementia, one having just had a major stroke. I made a huge dinner which they hardly touched, his brother showed up and announced that he was fasting for the day, and I can’t even remember what I did with all that food after the dust settled. Oh, God is so good to carry us through days like that with our sanity intact.