When I was young, the saying “home is where the heart is” did not ring true for me.

My youth was turbulent and any family gathering deteriorated into incessant bickering. Not one passed without a snide remark, delivered right through the back and into the heart of the unsuspecting individual. Family gatherings did not hold any appeal to me. So I hid, holed up in some corner, coming out only to eat.

It was not until my stepfather began to hang around that family gatherings became fun and pleasant. Our birthdays are a day apart and two out of every seven years, one of our birthdays land on Thanksgiving. We combine our birthday parties on Thanksgiving to celebrate. It is a feast and a party. We set aside the day and do not let the banalities of life enter.

Our Thanksgiving-birthday gatherings have been pared down to those who care. It is now a small group, gathered out of love, not necessity. We exchange gifts and eat a glorious meal at my mother’s home. She prepares special dishes and desserts that my stepfather and I love in addition to the standard turkey and stuffing. And the desserts! The desserts alone could feed a village. The pies, the cakes (zucchini chocolate cake for me!), and the tarts are a dream. My cousin comes, stuffed tomatoes in hand, knowing they are a favourite and will be eaten within minutes. Love, for us, is shown through food and the care given in creating and presenting them. The time taken to make the food is worth more than any gift.

Even in the years our birthdays don’t land on Thanksgiving, we still celebrate together on Thanksgiving. We exchange gifts and cards (shaking the empty cards and envelopes upside down—a throwback to the impersonal days of birthday cheques and scratch-and-wins), teasing that we are unsatisfied with our gifts, though our hearts are warmed at their thoughtfulness. With the exception of one unfortunate year where I was out of the country due to work, we have set aside every Thanksgiving to be together. It’s a tradition one year shy of a decade. Thanksgiving is our day to show our appreciation for all we have.

Over the years, people have faded out of our lives and into silence. Those left are there for life. Peace has now filled my mother’s home. Snide remarks are infrequently found and no knives are in need of being pulled from our backs. My mother’s home, with my parents and my wife, is where my heart lies. Being there now has memories of good times, good food, love, and friendship.

Celebrating my stepfather’s and my birthday on Thanksgiving is not to be missed. We will continue our celebrations for years to come.

Featured Image: Holidays and birthdays should be a time for family and friends to gather, enjoy a good meal and make happy memories. Sometimes you need to change the people you are in relationship with to achieve this. | Ben Franske CC BY 2.0