Here’s What Happened When I Deconstructed Thanksgiving

By Tracey Wright

What the heck is a Deconstructed Thanksgiving you might wonder?

Take the last definition (see below) from Webster’s: to adapt or separate the elements of for use in an iconic or radically new way. That’s what I did this year.

I striped away nearly all the work around the food and shifted the focus on my family. This created a single day that I was fully present in every moment of the day. Where we relished each other’s company without any other distractions.


What about traditions you may ask?

Traditions are certainly important, I would agree. Yet, as our lifestyles change, so should our traditions.

I’m sure you can relate to some of these traditions …

I remember spending hours at the stove when I was a child stirring the gravy so it was liquid smooth, sitting on the yellow step stool chair. That was my job at Thanksgiving and at Christmas. It seemed like hours but was more likely just 30 min or so!  My parents had been up since before dawn making the stuffing, my father’s specialty, and the stuffed turkey was in the oven as the sun was rising. My mother was making pies from scratch, her specialty, along with all the side dishes. And my father was the Dish Fairy all day long.

Yes, it was fun and I have fond memories of that time. During my childhood, we were living remotely in Luxembourg where Thanksgiving was not a national holiday. There were no Black Friday Specials, nothing was closed, and I was pulled out of school for the day. For a few years, we did have the luxury of enjoying it with another American family.


Times have changed

My lifestyle is very different from my childhood. I am a single parent of a teen, both of my parents have passed, and even though I have some family, the closest are about 1 day’s drive away. Even my childhood friend from Luxembourg is about 1 day’s drive away.

This year presented itself with the unique opportunity to start some new traditions that I had been secretly wishing for. And so … we had our first Deconstructed Thanksgiving. By making chili in the crockpot, I was freed me up to enjoy time with my daughter and our pets.

We started the day by playing with dogs outside, much to their delight :D. My daughter stayed in her jammies until late in the afternoon. I taught her how to play cribbage, a game taught to me by mother’s aunt and uncle. We went to the movies in the afternoon. Dinner was ready when we came back home (love those crockpots), and the new cornbread recipe my daughter helped me make turned out awesome. The dinner was topped off by some special treats for desert that my daughter had found. We walked the dogs together and finished the day by playing more cribbage; this time she beat me!


A Deconstructed Thanksgiving

By stripping many of our old traditions, or deconstructing them, I was left with what Thanksgiving is really about for us: being thankful and enjoying my daughter and our pets, without any restrictions or confinements.

I didn’t feel pulled to check on the turkey, the mashed potatoes, the pie. I wasn’t reminding my daughter to tidy up or to change as company was coming over or to hurry up as we needed to leave shortly.

I was able to be in the moment for every moment of the day. And I was thankful for every moment of the day too. That is true essence of Thanksgiving for us. And that is what I want to pass along to my daughter.  By the way, I do still have that yellow stepstool chair in my kitchen; now it’s often pulled up the counter to enjoy a quick snack with.


New traditions evolve

I look forward to maintaining this new tradition for us, it really worked for us this year.  As our lifestyles and beliefs naturally evolve, so should our traditions.

What family traditions have changed for you?

Are there any traditions that you would like to evolve?

Do you need help re-imageneering some family traditions? Leave your comments below and we’d be happy to offer some assistance.


Deconstruct – Merriam-Webster definition

1: to examine (something, such as a work of literature) using the methods of deconstruction
2: to take apart or examine (something) in order to reveal the basis or composition often with the intention of exposing biases, flaws, or inconsistencies
3: to adapt or separate the elements of for use in an ironic or radically new way

Tracy Wright: Shedding the shyness of my youth, I cheer exuberantly for my daughter, her teammates, and even the opposing Field Hockey team! Their pride & heart filled smiles beam in appreciation regardless of the final score.

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