Thanksgiving is a weird holiday. When I was a kid it meant Grandpa’s house, for my favorite weekend of the year. In the first two years of college, it meant tacking myself onto someone else’s family holiday. Once in Wyoming where I shot a gun at cans in the foothills, once in Saint Louis when I was zig-zag parting my hair. 2005, the year of my baby, when I lived alone in my small apartment in Omaha, my sister came from Wisconsin and stayed with me and we ate smoked turkey bagels and pieced puzzles together.

Since I’ve been married, we’ve alternated between my family’s Thanksgiving and Steve’s, more often Steve’s due to convenience.

This year was to be the year of my family’s Thanksgiving, but with divorce in full swing and people not yet knowing it, we didn’t make plans to head back to the Pacific Northwest. I called my mother on Thanksgiving Eve once the boys were asleep and I heard my newest niece crying and my sister talking and my mother was making her famous rolls and there was so much going on that I wasn’t a part of, as usual.

Mom asked if I had anywhere to go for the holiday and I said I did, I have this marvelous friend who not only invited me to her house for this holiday but also was with me on the fourth of July and sends me cards through the mail because she knows those are my absolute favorite. I made green bean casserole and drove to her home where her girls were on the lawn waiting for me. I rolled down the window and said, “can I drop by for dinner?” in an accent and they giggled because they’re the most delightful age (ten). There were name cards set on the table in the living room to designate where we each sit and mine was inscribed by one of the twins in the most gorgeous kid affection that I almost cried right there.

Then we ate and I gorged myself on tortilla chips and a cheeseball (which more people should have as an option in the lackluster Thanksgiving spread). Then we toured the small town and played Yahtzee which I lost very miserably (I even had to cross out my Full House). I drove back and thought not of what I was missing by not being with my family, but instead of what a good time I’d had in a Friendsgiving.

And I was thankful for that: the surprises that pop up that we can make the most of or lament.

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