Whether it’s watching football, playing a game, reading special books, or expressing our gratitude in some special way, almost every family has a beloved Thanksgiving tradition that extends beyond the festive meal that is front and center on this American holiday.
My own custom developed in early adulthood, when the political arguments and caloric intake reached epic proportions one Thanksgiving and I simply couldn’t stand to be inside another minute. Let’s face it: holidays are great, but they can certainly be intense. At least in my family!
I headed outside that cold November day and walked around the block. Alone for all of 15 minutes, with nothing but my steamy breath, the crunch of my shoes on the early snowfall, and a beautiful sunset, I felt my blood pressure lowering and my clarity returning. I noticed — not for the first time — that time in nature is my favorite form of therapy.
The following year, I asked my siblings and cousins to join me for a post-dinner, pre-dessert stroll. We hadn’t seen one another for a while and it was nice to catch up away from the ears of the “real” grownups. I had recently taken a field ecology course and so I pointed out different trees, birds, and other objects in nature along the way.
And so it began: my own little Thanksgiving tradition that I’ve continued throughout the years, through marriage and pregnancy into parenthood. It’s certainly nothing ground-breaking. I mean, how many people go for a walk on Thanksgiving day? But spending time in nature is an essential piece of my happiness, and so I’ve consciously worked to make it a consistent component of my growing family’s Thanksgiving celebration.
And yet, each year it looks and feels a little different. The kids are older; so am I. I used to drag them along; now I’m asking them to wait up. Our observations and conversations grow more and more complex. It’s a snapshot of where we are as a family as much as it is of the weather and moon cycle. We clear our heads and stave off post-prandial torpor.
And then we go eat some pie!