Archived Opinion

A new kind of Thanksgiving

A new kind of Thanksgiving

Holidays are all fun and games until death and divorce happen. Then they become an aching headache, if a person lets them. My goal is to ward off that headache by any means possible.

I’ve been throwing around ideas for this column over the past week. Thanksgiving is the obvious choice. It’s impossible to write about this day in the same manner as two or three years ago. I remember writing a column back then titled “Surviving Thanksgiving.” It was a light, humorous piece suggesting activities to entertain kids while the adults cooked, drank wine, watched football and conversed about holiday shopping.

I read that column this morning and it felt like another woman wrote it. So much has changed since then. I would love to have a house full of people on Thanksgiving, my mom and sister by my side cooking and laughing over a bottle of Malbec, and little bright-eyed boys scrambling around my apron strings. Even just to experience that for a fleeting moment would be amazing.

But that was then, and this is now, and I can no longer compare the two. As they say, comparison is the thief of joy. I think I’m finally transitioning from lamenting the old to embracing the new, and it feels good to be moving forward.

People always have a choice in these types of situations. We can either find joy somehow, someway or we can waller in our sorrows indefinitely. I’ve always been an optimist, so I’m choosing joy. I may have to scratch, cry and claw my way there, but I’ll find it.

After processing and accepting the fact this Thanksgiving will be very different, I began making plans for the week. While I’m a fan of spontaneity, I also enjoy planning. A plan gives me something to look forward to.

Related Items

This is the first holiday season since separating from my husband, and my two boys will be with him on Thanksgiving Day. He has a large, talkative, loving family and the boys enjoy being with them. They’ll eat a lot of food, watch football, play and do a puzzle. Even though I’ll miss them terribly, knowing they will be in a happy, loving place gives me peace. They’ll be back in town Friday.

My sister and her family arrive Friday as well, so it will just be my dad and me on Thanksgiving. At first, I thought about making an entire dinner for the two of us, but that seemed a bit obnoxious. We’ve got the turkey and all the items to make a full spread, but we’re going to wait until the weekend when everyone’s here before cooking the big meal.

We worked at The Open Door last Thanksgiving, so I didn’t make my mom’s dressing. Doing anything “traditional” so close after her death felt like being stabbed, so I avoided it. But this year I am making the dressing. It’s my great-grandmother’s recipe and I’ve helped my mom make it since I was a very small girl. I remember sitting on a bar stool in my childhood kitchen, wearing a nightgown, breaking up cornbread in a big bowl and listening to the Asheville Christmas parade on WLOS. I want her dressing to be part of my life and the boys’ lives forever, so after taking one year off, I’ll be sure to make it this weekend.

I’ve made reservations for my dad and I to eat Thanksgiving dinner at Balsam Mountain Inn. My dad’s never been there. He’s a collector and self-professed historian, so not only will he get a good meal, but we’ll enjoy walking around and looking at the historic structure and relics within.

I also plan on doing a little Black Friday shopping in town. I try hard to stick with local stores for holiday shopping, although I’ll have to utilize Amazon and Target and a few other places to acquire gifts for the boys. I love to shop, so one way or another it will be a good day.

I’ve learned the “most wonderful time of year” doesn’t feel so wonderful to everyone. I only realized this fact over the past 15 months. Before that, I was too caught up in my own festive hoopla to stop and think how hard this season is for a lot of folks. Whether it’s death of a loved one, marital separation, estrangement from family, illness or some other reason, this time of year can be very emotional.

But I hope, like me, they can find a silver lining, they can dig deep and not only enjoy some special moments with family and friends but also find solace within.

Tomorrow’s the day, my friends. It’s hard to believe the holidays are already here. If you’re traveling, be safe, and may you and yours have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving.

(Susanna Barbee is a digital media specialist with Mountain South Media and writes for Smoky Mountain News and Smoky Mountain Living. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Leave a comment

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.