For the second time in the last three years, I was unable to share the Thanksgiving holiday with my family back home in Dallas. That is because of my commitment to playing on the basketball team. A personal choice, no doubt, and one I would never take back. However, with the season lasting 6 months long, missing holidays, having shortened breaks, and not seeing family for extended amounts of time becomes the norm, however crummy.
This year we were allowed two days off from practice. Thanksgiving and the day before. We were to report back on Friday for practice before our game on Saturday. Considering the drive time to get home and back, it was most convenient to stay near campus for the holiday.
I would be amiss if I didn't mention the myriad of invites from close (and even not-so-close) friends and acquaintances that were extended for me to join them at their Thanksgiving celebrations. It was truly heart-warming to have such generosity be offered. I had, however, back in September, made plans to attend my girlfriend's family reunion/Thanksgiving.
Wednesday saw me sleep until noon and then bum around my buddy's apartment for the majority of the day. Alone. He was with his family for the break.
I was excited for the upcoming events of the following day. Recalling a discussion with my girlfriend about what to expect at the gathering, I was preparing myself for something I had never experienced.
See, at my family Thanksgiving get-togethers there's maybe 8 people tops, and that's if someone brings a guest. The men gather in the living room to watch the Cowboys' game while the women chat in the kitchen preparing the meal. After Grandpa utters a few choice words about Romo, he carves the turkey, we say grace, eat, and then Grandpa un-pauses the TV (because a 71 year-old has DVR) and we finish watching the game.
This year I knew would be nothing like at home. There were close to 30 people from her family, ranging from infants to grandparents. We met at a park where there were games, smiles, warm greetings, and awkward introductions aplenty.
I did my best to figure out the whose kid was whose and the brothers and sisters and all that. In the end I resorted to, "Hi, I'm Justin," only to receive a puzzled look from a relative I had met earlier responding, "Hello....again."
A feast was held in the indoor shelter area where I sheepishly went back for seconds and then pulled the 'starving college kid' schtick to score some leftovers to take home. I was disappointed in myself for not getting more cheesy potatoes (a dish I had never had before coming to Kansas and one my girlfriend will need to be able to make in the future...) but as a guest I didn't think it proper for me to clean out the pan.
It was a fantastic meal. Not that I had any doubt about it. I kept to myself during dinner, with my girlfriend on my left and her brother to my right. Perhaps they were keeping me from what was to come later in the day...