Home for Thanksgiving

Home for Thanksgiving | Freckled Italian

Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember—for me it was all about a chilly morning on Smith Mountain Lake; a hazy fog floating above the surface of the water. We’d wake up early and drink coffee as we rummaged through old bags of winter running gear for gloves and headbands and lace up our shoes to go downtown and run a 5K with thousands of other Roanokers who also put their turkey in the oven before they left and have mimosa supplies locked and loaded in the fridge for when they return.

I haven’t been to Roanoke for the holidays in a few years because my parents broke up and moved out of our house on the lake. At first I didn’t go back because I was mad and a little passive aggressive, and even though I lived only a few hours away I decided to just stay put in Charlotte with Rob and drink beers and eat tacos outside by the fire at Sycamore Brewery, which we could walk to from our South End apartment. Charlotte didn’t feel like home yet but I could see it for us on the horizon.

We also haven’t gone anywhere for Thanksgiving since we moved to California in 2016—that first year we had just gotten settled and didn’t want to leave, and then last year Sophie was born and we were in the hospital and got discharged on Thanksgiving. We nervously buckled her tiny body into the infant carseat and I sat in the back staring at her as Rob drove extra slowly and carefully down University Avenue in Palo Alto, stopping to pop into Starbucks for salted caramel mochas. As we drove across the Dumbarton I looked out the window and across the bay—one hand on our sleepy daughter’s chest—and made a mental note to never forget this moment or that feeling. The chilly morning, the hazy fog floating above the surface of the water.

My perception of home (and comfort) was so rooted in that house at the lake and now it’s so many different places (mostly friends’ houses along the East Coast), but especially our own house here in California—where the coffee is abundant and Ender is curled up and Sophie says “uh oh!” as she tosses her sippy cup onto the ground for the fifteenth time. And if I have a weird day I can drink a cup of tea as I season chicken legs with lots of salt and put them in a dish with olive oil and a ton of garlic and roast them while I play with my daughter who is going to be walking any day now. Rob will come home from work smelling like the evening autumn air and Acqua di Gio, and we’ll give the baby a bath and read her a story before putting her down in her crib, and then we pour two glasses of wine and re-watch Gilmore Girls for the third or fourth time because it’s cold outside and Thanksgiving is right around the corner.

A few months ago we went to Berkeley for a Death Cab for Cutie show with my brother and his girlfriend, and we were late so they were already well into their set when we arrived. The venue was packed and the stars twinkled overhead and as we climbed the stairs to get to the top of the amphitheater I was struck by the sensation of hearing familiar music in a new place. We stopped on a big landing to catch our breath and decide where to go next (getting from the pit to the lawn at The Greek is a serious hike), but I didn’t want to move from that spot yet. Maybe it was because I hadn’t been out without Sophie in months, or because fall mornings and nights always make me weepy in the best way, but suddenly the world was still and all I could hear was Ben Gibbard’s voice echoing I’m thinking of what Sarah said—watching the lights flash across the stage, marijuana smoke rising from the crowd—standing in a sea of strangers with tears rolling down my face, once again making a mental note to remember this moment and that feeling.

And then we were back in the car, scarves loosened and seat warmers on, reliving the show already through Spotify, deciding if we should get late-night In N Out or not. We drove home to a dreaming baby and hot tea and comfy beds and the kind of rest you get when so many people you love are under the same roof.

Next week Rob, Sophie, and I will pack our bags and fly across the country, and on Thanksgiving morning we’ll buckle her into the jogging stroller for her first Roanoke 5K. We won’t wake up to that fog on the lake but we’ll be cozy and warm and all under one roof as we lace up our shoes and search for matching gloves. We’ll introduce Sophie to friends she hasn’t met yet and celebrate her first birthday and tell her the story of how when she was just a newborn, we brought her home for the first time on a chilly Thanksgiving just like this one.

Thankful for more moments; more memories, everywhere we go.