Thanksgiving Day was a really big deal growing up in my house. By the time I woke up in the morning, my Mom was already busy cooking. As I walked down the stairs, I could smell the pumpkin pie baking in the oven. My mom would be busy in the kitchen, cutting up a fresh loaf of bread for stuffing while I ate my breakfast. After the stuffing was made, she would move on to the sweet potatoes and the cranberries. After I ate breakfast, I would plant myself in front of the T.V. to watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

By the afternoon, the whole family would be watching football as my mother continued to cook. Off and on, I would venture in to see what I could sneak to eat or to talk to my Mom. I would set the table in the dining room (only used for special occasions) and count the hours until we all got together to eat. The point is that I have wonderful memories of Thanksgiving Day that involved great food, family time and lots of laughter.

About ten years ago, my husband got the brilliant idea to spend Thanksgiving in New York City. I believe he always harbored the childhood dream to experience the Thanksgiving Day Parade firsthand. After the first Thanksgiving in New York City, my kids were hooked. They loved the excitement in the city, the shopping during the holiday season, the Broadway plays and the Thanksgiving Day Parade. As for me, I endured. Begrudgingly, I went every year but failed to see what all the excitement was about.

So here’s the thing: I sorely missed my Thanksgiving experience from my childhood. It was a traditional experience and I believed in tradition. I imagined we were cheating our kids out of a REAL Thanksgiving. In my eyes, sitting in a restaurant on Thanksgiving was just wrong. The whole idea rubbed me the wrong way.

Then one year, as my husband went around the restaurant table to ask each family member what they were grateful for in life, it hit me. I looked at their faces and listened to their answers and realized they really got it! They were grateful for the New York experience and were so happy to be in our family. They commented on their love for each one of us at the table and how lucky they were to have us in their life. At that moment it dawned on me that I had it all wrong.

THIS WAS THEIR TRADITION! To them, this was their Thanksgiving. I realized that Thanksgiving wasn’t necessarily about homemade stuffing, turkey, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving was a special day because you break your usual routine and spend a special day with the people you love. Thanksgiving is about being grateful for what you have in life and who you have in your life.

So this year, don’t miss the true meaning of Thanksgiving. It’s not about the perfect pie, it’s about taking the time to look around and recognize how lucky you are in life. Make this Thanksgiving the best one ever!

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