First off, my earliest memories of Thanksgiving don’t really involve turkey. I remember eating lots of pie and going camping down in Big Bear. Camping was my favorite thing, so it never felt weird to me. In fact the first time I actually tried turkey was in second grade at my class Thanksgiving party.

I remember asking my dad once, after my parents divorce, why we never ate turkey. He said he had tried it, but wasn’t crazy about it. My family was crazy for chicken when I was little. The first time I had an actual Thanksgiving meal was when my step-mother had ordered a bunch of food from Marie Calendars. I don’t really remember how I felt about the food, but I was happy I got to try it and have, what seemed to be, a proper Thanksgiving.

Now, on my mom’s side I have two cousins who’s birthdays are November 28. I tend to switch which cousin I stay with over break. At my older cousin’s home we have a cornucopia of food since my uncle is a chef. Even now, I’m not a huge fan of turkey, but I could eat mashed potatoes and corn for days. We also make my aunt’s spaghetti and hot dogs. Best. Thing. Ever. Just saying. My older cousin is like my older sister. We’ve grown up together doing stupid stuff and I don’t regret any of it. I had fun! She also has an older sister who’s married, and an older brother who we play video games with. I feel like everything’s okay, and like I don’t have to be perfect. I can be me.

With my younger cousin who’s birthday is also on the 28th of November, I can’t stop smiling. When I’m with them, I’m the oldest kid. Three of the cousins I’ve known since they were born. The other two I met when they were two and three. It’s so weird seeing how much they’ve changed and grown, considering the older ones are now around eight.I still think of all of them as little babies. When I’m with them I turn into an innocent little kid. I don’t have to worry about real world problems, because being around my younger cousins makes everything alright, There’s always laughter and smiles. The real difference of being with my younger cousins for Thanksgiving is that we have Indian food. My mom and one of my aunts are vegetarians, so we don’t have turkey. It’s still good though.

Thanksgiving isn’t just about the food, even though it’s always delicious; it’s about being with the people you love and realizing how much support and love you have around you. As I get older, I appreciate Thanksgiving more, because I begin to realize how important it is to have positive people in your life. I change every year, but the things I’m grateful for generally stay the same. Family. Shelter. Food. Not this time though. We should be thankful for what we have every day.

Living where I do, people have a lot. I know that. I don’t crave for these shiny things, but I’d be lying if I said I’ve never even thought of them. I guess the best thing, is to just not care about what others have and evaluate what you have in your own life.

I’m grateful for the new people I surround myself with at school, the people who have broadened my mind, and my mother, who has been through hell and back. There are tangible items too, but those just don’t seem as important sometimes.

What are some of your favorite or strange family traditions on Thanksgiving?