Home for the holidays and all the days

I recently saw an article about Thanksgiving hacks. It suggested taking any leftover pie, blending it with ice cream, and making a Thanksgiving pie milkshake.
First of all, what leftover pie? Who on earth has leftover pie on Thanksgiving?

When I moved to Maine, I knew that I would be a solid distance from my family members. My siblings lived in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and at the time my parents were in North Dakota. I soon found myself single, with no family close by, and the holidays were quickly approaching. I never had much time off for Thanksgiving, or I wasn’t willing to use the paid time off and preferred to save it for Christmas. Eight hours of driving was a lot for one day, plus with all the eating I’d easily fall asleep at the wheel on the long trek home.

Thanksgiving is probably a hard day to spend on your own, because it’s a day to be spent with family or friends; but thanks to the hospitality of Mainers, I have yet to spend one alone.

Over the past few years, I’ve spent Thanksgiving in several different homes. There’s always been a friend or coworker willing to take in an “orphan” and make me feel perfectly at home. But it wasn’t always the generosity of my friends that surprised me, rather the ease I felt in those situations thanks to their generosity and love. I remember one Thanksgiving where I only knew the coworker who had invited me. I was surrounded by a family clad in sweatpants and hoodies, and I felt ridiculous not wearing something more comfortable, but everyone just complimented me on how nice I looked. We sat shoulder to shoulder at several tables pushed together and heavy under the burden of so much food. People kept adding more food to my plate, someone made a pregnancy announcement, and I was caught up in the crush of a family group hug.

Other Thanksgivings were spent with friends who have become family. I’ll always agree that blood is thicker than water, but sometimes you find people who are more than just friends. I’ve had holidays with the Kennedy clan and later I would even be the maid of honor in their daughter’s wedding, one of my best friends who I met through work. This year, I was able to celebrate Friendsgiving in the newly-weds’ home, and once again it felt like family.

So how is it Thanksgiving is a family holiday that I’ve rarely gotten to spend with family, and yet I don’t feel  deprived? And it’s not just Thanksgiving either, it’s Fourth of July, Memorial Day, birthdays, New Year’s Eve. There’s never a lack of invitations or events to attend on any holiday. I guarantee someone would even invite me to Christmas in their own home. Is it a testament to the relationships I’ve built or to the general goodness and loving nature of Mainers? I can’t be sure. Either way, I’ve never felt anything but at home. Most Mainers seem to stay in Maine all their lives. They make this state their life-long home because they were born and bred here, and because they’re smart enough to know they won’t find anything like it anywhere else. It’s not easy being away from my family on holidays, especially when I have the cutest 17 month-old nephew ever who grows up way too much between my visits. However in the last few years, I’ve learned so much about making this place my home.

Making a new state your home is hard, but in a way it never was for me. I remember telling my mom once that whenever I travel back to Maine after a family visit or a work trip, I always feel like I’m going home, something I didn’t really feel when returning to Kentucky or South Carolina where I spent my childhood and college years. I’ve brought my southern ways with me, for sure. Can you believe no one in my friend circle had ever had corn casserole for Thanksgiving? If it’s a southern thing, it needs to become a northern thing because it’s truly amazing (one can of corn, one can of creamed corn, a cup of sour cream, a stick of butter, and a box of Jiffy cornbread, 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven, and boom). My sweet potato casserole will always be topped with mini marshmallows and my pecan pie will always be pronounced “puh-khan”…none of this “pee-can” nonsense.

This year, I’ll be heading to northern Maine to spend Thanksgiving with my boyfriend’s family, who have already welcomed me as though I’m family. I’m excited to spend the holiday in yet another home, to learn the traditions and holiday routines of another family. I can’t wait to hear the Aroostook County accents, to watch the mannerisms that have shaped the man I love, and, of course partake in his mom’s cooking. I’ll be bringing (you guessed it) corn casserole in order to give them a touch of my southern upbringing.

I’ll never lose my southern roots. Even an uprooted plant still holds on to those original roots when it’s transplanted. You wouldn’t sever a plant from its roots when moving it to a new spot. In the same way, I’m keeping my old roots, but putting down some new ones as well. What better way than immersing myself in the holidays of my new home?

Pecan pie milkshakes sound really good and maybe some time I’ll try it. But for now, we’re eating all the Thanksgiving pie.

Emily Russell

About Emily Russell

Through this blog, I hope to help native Mainers remember what an amazing state they live in by sharing my thoughts and experiences, as well as my own appreciation for where I live. I compare it to the feeling you get when you share a favorite book or movie with someone, and their excitement over it reignites your own. Sometimes we can forget to slow down and appreciate the beauty around us, or we forgot all the little gifts our home can provide. I hope I can help remind you.