Fakesgiving is one of my very favorite holidays.
The only calendar it can be found on is the one a divorced mom keeps, alongside the other holidays when her kids are with another parent. It hasn't always been a celebration. Once upon a time, when the holiday sharing was new and the weekly visitation felt like 24 hours of stabbing pain in my side, Fakesgiving was one more reminder that our family would never again be the picture I'd seen on every card taped to my cabinet, or had carefully crafted in my own head.
But that changed. Fakesgiving snuck up on me, and the forged smile on my face while I kneaded pie dough or served turkey soon melted into real appreciation for this faux festival.
Fakesgiving is the plentiful dinner we serve a few days before Thanksgiving, on the years my son is with his father on the holiday.
That's it. There's nothing complicated, no magic formula. Just the same celebration moved up to a convenient time we are all able to gather at the table.
Our Fakesgiving includes my parents, and now my boyfriend and our daughter. The trickiest part is making sure that no one has to work or complete a big school project. The spread of food looks much the same as it does at other people's houses on the Thursday that follows. The place cards are still colored or crafted by the littlest hands in the family. We say the same prayer we do on other years. We give a nod to my grandmother, whose recipes we still follow. We pretend we will eat the vegetables. We fill our already-full bellies with homemade pie. We go to bed well-fed, happy, connected.
We go around the table to share a few of our favorite blessings of the year. We raise a glass to being together. We just do it all before our neighbors have scrambled out to the grocery store, before the highways have filled up with cars carrying families across the city or state or further.
Our photos of Fakesgiving don't look different than gatherings on "real" day. The turkey might be a bit bigger so we are all sure to have leftovers. There's an extra pie for my son to proudly take to his dad's house.
Celebrating like this takes a bit of the sting out of kissing my son goodbye for a holiday I'd love to spend with him. I am soothed that we've already said our thanks and broken our bread when he leaves for his second round of all of that.
When the holiday arrives, I luxuriate in not having to travel anywhere, not worrying about traffic or last-minute trips to pick up spray whip cream or butter, not being tied to a timer. We make plates of turkey-and-cranberry sandwiches on dinner rolls, stretch out on the couch and binge watch our shows. Before we had a toddler, I'd take a long-weekend trip with my love. And before that, I'd sleep in and meet up with my other single mom friends for drinks and dessert.
I can languish on Fakesgiving years, and as a single mom who is responsible for pretty much everything in this kid's life, I have learned to appreciate that luxury.
It took time and practice. Getting to the good Fakesgiving place, where I can rest assured that my son is having fun with his dad doing their own holiday rituals, feels like my own kind of every-other-year self-care.
Perhaps I prepared for this all unknowingly, when I was in graduate school and couldn't afford to come home or the times I had to work or when I sat at tables with friends, choosing to make a big trip to see my family for Christmas. Perhaps this will all teach my son that one day, he can choose grace and can create new traditions when the old ways just don't work anymore.
This year, when we sit at a table on the actual Thanksgiving holiday, I will be grateful that we get that time together. I will count it as a blessing that we have learned to observe special occasions together in our own ways, no matter what the calendar says, no matter what the parenting agreement dictates.
Like many parenting moments, and especially single parenting moments, it won't be perfect. But it will be plenty. It won't be the picture I once had. But it will be ours. Right then, on a Sunday afternoon or Tuesday night, it will be our very own bounty.