I'm not very good at holidays. Some people get all emotional and happy and something they call overcome with the holiday spirit. I've always been the girl who sits awkwardly in the corner drinking copious amounts of wine and nibbling on a biscuit.
When I was a child, I loved the holidays. I loved family gatherings. Somewhere along the way real life happened, and the holidays lost their charm with me. After my grandmother passed, few true holiday traditions remained. I usually would crash my friend's family parties, the Dosmann's and the Clark's are still people today I wish I could spend my holidays with, but mostly I celebrated in my own way, in my own head, stuck in memories and pretending that the day meant nothing special.
So when, four years ago, I found myself living in Cincinnati, far from anything that felt familiar or, let's be honest, normal, the holidays were a challenge. At the time, I was dating a man, who unlike me, was very close with nearly everyone that he grew up with, and was very close with his family. These are the kind of dynamics someone like me has trouble understanding. Being new to the city, being new to what felt like a completely foreign way of life, I clung quietly to the things that made me me.
That Thanksgiving both of my loves were playing. The Packers vs the Lions in the early game and at night, USC was taking on Arizona State. (there is a chance that it was AU and not ASU, I've never actually gone back to check, and my memory of it is cloudy at best now). My ex's family is the type of family that if they could all sleep under the same roof, and start the holiday with breakfast together at 8 am, they would. My plan for the day was football, his plan for the day was every waking minute with his family. I proposed a compromise. We'd watch the Packers game, then head to the family gathering, eat, drink, be merry, and then end up back at his parents' place to watch the SC game with his friends.
To me, choosing to include the Packers in my Thanksgiving plans felt natural. It was one of the few things that felt calm, and home and like family to me. If my family had been in Cincinnati, or if the ex and I would have gone to Milwaukee for the holiday, the day would have been planned around the Packers.
I don't mean to paint the ex and his family in a negative light, as they all were and I'm sure still are very loving wonderful people; but let's just say, they didn't "get" me. And they certainly didn't get the Packers. While we sat and watched the Packers stomp all over the Lions, the ex's phone rang constantly. Where were we?? In my house, you never called people during a play unless there was a national emergency going on. In their houses, you apparently didn't miss the early afternoon family poker games for football.
It should be clear at this point in the story why we are exes. Our relationship ended that night. Somewhere between dessert and the kick off of the USC game, I was single. (FYI: it doesn't help a girl like holidays by breaking her heart on one of them). And due to the drama of getting dumped on a holiday, I ended up missing most of the USC game. Go figure.
I could never be the person who football wasn't important to; I will never be the person who doesn't equate football and family as one in my head. And my unwillingness to change that, to give up part of myself, was in the end, our relationship's last straw.
I suppose some could look at the story and say that I chose football over a family. And maybe that's true. But in the end I'd rather have a family and friends and a life partner that would never ask me to make that choice. When I watch the Packers, especially around the holidays, I don't just see the current players. I remember my childhood home filed with voices and laughter. I remember my parents, happy, cooking chili and cleaning the house. I remember my family, with purpose and love. So it feels only natural that on a day when we're supposed to be surrounded by those that we love, I should watch the Packers. Maybe I'm insane, maybe I need therapy, but that's me.
I've grown since 2007. I have also found a man and his family that instead of trying to change me to fit into their predetermined role, love me for who I am. Tomorrow morning, SB - fiance extraordinare - and I will be heading to his parent's house. For three hours before time to eat, I will be in the living room, laptop in hand, talking to you lovely people and watching the Packers try to improve to 11-0. I will also be joined in the room by his family. From Mimi Carmella who recently moved here from Peru to little Charlotte Rose who is just over three months old, who even though they might not really care or might not really understand it will cheer on the Packers with me. And then after the Packers beat the Lions, the laptop will go away, and I'll celebrate Thanksgiving and my future brother-in-laws birthday with some great people, and most likely, some great wine.
So this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful that I can look back at what hands down was the worst Thanksgiving of my life, and say thank you for it. Because I was myself, tomorrow I get to spend the day with all the people I do truly love. Aaron Rodgers, the CheeseheadTV gameday crew, and SB and his family. And that's pretty special.