It starts like this.
My nana and papa always arrive early. Toting five or six bags filled with jars of chicken soup, frozen kugels wrapped in 30-year-old tin foil and loads of discount candy, my nana never makes a quiet entrance.
Necco, my enthusiastically overweight golden retriever mutt stands at the head of the welcome train, waiting for her rightful petting and ear rub. I rush over to separate the tangled mess of slobbery dog. I get my bear hug, the traditional kiss on the cheek and the, “Well, heck, how ya doin’, Miss America?” greeting.
I’ll wear her bright pink lipstick stain on my cheek the entire night. The woman is actually the size of my pinky toe, no more than 4-foot-9, but to me, she still manages to be larger-than-life.
This scene is my favorite – the one I look forward to every Thanksgiving. It’s just one big mess of family love. Holidays at the Peters household have always been unconventional, as we’ve never been much for family traditions.
There are no family football games or movie nights – just trying to get the whole brigade in one place is always our biggest feat. No one will ever tell my mom, but none of us really care how dry the turkey is or how burnt the pumpkin pies are. Besides, we’ve been eating the same cooking for over 20 years. As long as all six of the grandchildren call to check in and Aunt Kay makes her famous six-layer rainbow Jell-O – with whipped cream, of course – all will be right with the world.
This Thanksgiving, especially as I attempt to reconnect with high school friends, all the while trying to remember what exactly it was that we ever had in common, I’m reminded of the tight-knit crew I’ve come to call my family back at GW.
My GW “mom and dad” are actually two of my sorority sisters. Seemingly opposites, the dynamic duo always seem to know what’s best for me. My “sister” is someone whom I absolutely hated when we first met, but has since become one of my closest friends at school. She is my power-walking buddy, my voice of reason and the proud owner of a fictitious nail salon she created after countless requests to paint my nails. My GW family is big and at times a bit dysfunctional, but just as lovable as my biological family in Chicago.
So, when someone asks me that same annoying question, “What are you thankful for?” I’ll finally have an answer prepared.
Taking the short holiday to catch up on some much-needed TLC, navigate Chicago’s Black Wednesday and Friday and to figure out how to avoid old high school teachers, I’m thankful for the chance to relax and revel in the holiday’s glory. I’m thankful for every moment spent with both my families, at home and at GW, and for the many moments to come.
But most of all, I’m thankful for Thanksgiving.