From Tragedy to Tradition: Our Hurricane Sandy Thanksgiving
November of 2012 was a pretty high-stress period for anybody living on the East Coast. Not only was the country prepping for a particularly vital Presidential Election, but those of us in the Mid-Atlantic region were being positively pummeled by Hurricane Sandy. The storm knocked out power and tress alike, and many roads were blocked or closed for a large segment of the population. Thankfully, on the third day, power was restored at my house, which gave us an opportunity to gather together, hunker down, and do a test run on the idea of a dream commune we had often fantasized about creating if we ever won the Lottery. The house was full with my kids, my sisters Nikki and Sue, Heather, her family, an Obama campaign staffer named Chip, and three dogs. Over the course of the storm and recovery, we wound up coming together in ways we didn't even know were possible. A true blessing in disguise!
Over those next ten days, the adults would work as the kids played, and bonds were strengthened left and right. Frankly, if we didn't all have each other, making it through Hurricane Sandy would have probably been twice as difficult (and half as meaningful).
As business returned to usual, kids going back to school and the adults heading back to our own homes, the house didn't just feel quite the same without being filled to the brim. With Thanksgiving approaching, it was easy to imagine an occasion to recreate the camaraderie we had experienced during the storm, so I called Heather. I told her I had an idea and that I knew it was crazy, but...would she like to join us again for Thanksgiving? And after she conferred with her mother and sister's families, she accepted on behalf of their entire clan.
I can't even tell you how nervous I felt. It was like asking someone on a first date! Anyone who comes from a celebration-oriented family will tell you, Thanksgiving can be a huge deal. Of all the holidays, Thanksgiving tends to be one of the most personal, rooted in long-standing family traditions. It can certainly feel strange to be an outsider at someone else's celebration, which is something to which I paid special consideration as we planned our celebration.
Bringing Everyone Together
Since our massive Thanksgiving Extravaganza was a multi-family affair, I felt it was vital that we avoid making our celebration about any one family's tradition. I wanted to make sure that togetherness and shared experiences were the focus, and the key to making our gathering as meaningful and special as possible was allowing everybody to contribute. Not only was this an important way to bring everyone together, but it helped to break down the "host/guest" dynamic that can be the source of so much holiday stress.
A week before everyone gathered, I sent out a list of roles and responsibilities that needed to be filled. This included who would make the turkey and gravy (me!), assigned Heather's mother Karen to bring along her incredible pies, put my sister Nikki in charge of the cranberry sauce (she was adamant). We also made sure to pre-assign teams for dishes, packing up leftovers, making a playlist, and flipping the living room so we could all sit together. My sister-in-law Sue even debuted a Thanksgiving Obstacle Course (inspired by one of our nights together during the storm). In fact, making sure that everyone took ownership over at least one aspect of our celebration not only made the workload a lot more bearable, but also gave everyone an important sense of pride and inclusion. Nobody felt like they were responsible for "entertaining" anybody else; the communal experience was pure, and everyone contributed their own special brand of warmth.
What's more is that we learned that when everybody brings their favorite traditions to the table, brand new ones are born! The combination of personal creativity, tastes, and traditions makes for a wonderful new way to come together. Our menu was composed of everybody's favorite flavors, and it made our Thanksgiving meal a truly shared feast. It was an incredible blend of traditions and stories that found us all coming together to create something new, special, and shared as we enjoyed a meal around our communal table.
the synthesis of celebration
The end result involved Thanksgiving 2012 being one of the biggest, most special celebrations we've had in recent memory. It was truly an evening filled with warmth and light. We were surrounded by incredible food, spent the day creating cherished memories, and capped it all off with an amazing obstacle course!
Not only did we come together to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, but we came together to celebrate each other. Having done so, we all came away with something truly special. We learned more about each other, in a meaningful way, by sharing our favorite traditions and our most special recipes. And when we came together to combine all our favorite things, a band new tradition was born! It certainly wouldn't have been such a special Thanksgiving if we hadn't given everyone the opportunity to bring something special to the table. Each individual contribution led to an experience that was so much more than the sum of its parts.
You hear it all the time in the news, how natural disasters and tragedies can help to bring people together, and that's certainly what happened with us. The Bacon & Lox Society Thanksgiving has become one of our most cherished memories.