The Planted Row: Only Thanksgiving requirement is loved ones

Farm Forum

My family and I love living in South Dakota. As I’ve said many times in this space, Aberdeen is a wonderful town that works very hard to be a great place to raise a family. We feel very much at home and part of the community here. The only problem is that we are a long way from our extended families. As a child, I benefitted from spending a lot of time with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I learned many things from them, but most importantly, I learned that I wasn’t alone in the world. I had people who cared about me. I saw them every day, and we shared experiences all the time.

So while I love living here, one of my biggest regrets is that my children don’t have the same close relationships with their extended family. The holidays are a particularly rough time to be away from family, so every year, at Thanksgiving, we leave the state and visit either my family or my wife’s.

Thanksgiving is, by far, my favorite holiday. All you need for a perfect Thanksgiving is good food and the company of those you love. As a holiday, it has no message, no lesson, except to be thankful for the good things and people in your life.

Back in Mississippi, Thanksgiving is a big deal in my family. My grandparents had six children, and all of them live pretty close to the farm. When all of their families come home for Thanksgiving, we manage to squeeze over 60 people in my grandmother’s 4-bedroom farmhouse for a giant party. Little kids run around underfoot, squealing and laughing. Slightly older kids abscond to a back room where they can play without grownups looking over their shoulders. The grownups sit wherever they can find a spot and laugh, swap old stories, and talk about hunting, fishing, farming, politics and community gossip. The teenagers join them and try to add a point or two to the conversation.

Everyone brings food. We save our best recipes for Thanksgiving and try to impress one another. The result is that we always have way too much food that is way too good to pass up. We eat ourselves full, sit awhile, and then eat some more. It’s a fabulous time, but it must be noted that it involves a lot of work in both cooking and cleaning up afterwards.

My wife’s family has a different tradition. They’re a little more spread out across the country and there’s not as many of them, so every year they rent condos on the beach in Siesta Key, Fla. Instead of sitting around and talking, they schedule fun activities like golf outings, card game tournaments, beach football games, go-kart racing, shopping excursions, and putt-putt golf competitions. They eat almost every meal at restaurants (including Thanksgiving dinner), so no one has to cook or wash dishes. It must be noted, however, that this type of tradition requires quite a bit of money.

This year is our year to join my wife’s family for Thanksgiving. It took me a while to see the value in their tradition, but at the end of the day, they are spending time with each other, just like my family is doing in Mississippi. So, over the years, I’ve learned to enjoy Thanksgiving on the beach instead of on the farm.

Wherever and however you spend the holiday this year, I hope you are surrounded by the people you love.