Every year, for as long as I can remember, Thanksgiving has always been about family. Growing up, if we were living in the US, we all piled into the car and traveled from wherever we were stationed to visit my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in Tennessee and Kentucky. Since we moved to Tennessee in 1997, we have spent our Thanksgivings on the road to Alabama and middle Tennessee to see my own children’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
A few years ago my Mom passed away and my house became Thanksgiving central for my Dad, my middle sister and her family and I loved it. They would all arrive the night before and we would spend Thanksgiving day eating all our family favorites. It was much too far for my brother and youngest sister and their families to travel but at least part of our family was together for the day. The day after would see everyone leaving for home or to visit more family in Kentucky and once the house was cleared out, my kids and I would head for Alabama to visit with their paternal grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins.
This year was different. As our children have gotten older, gotten jobs, and have become involved in school activities and sports, travel becomes more difficult for all of us. The weeks before this Thanksgiving were spent in conversations about how this year would have to be different. My sister’s boys were playing football and they had a playoff game this weekend. They would not be able to travel but she invited us to Louisiana. I tried to make it work but after getting my kids work schedules, I would have had to go alone and did not want to leave the kids alone for Thanksgiving. I also wouldn’t be able to visit my in-laws in Alabama if I did that.
Dad had some commitments with friends and would not be traveling either. My brother-in-law and his wife had a family wedding and would be staying in Mobile. After speaking with my in-laws they decided they would drive down to Mobile to spend the weekend.
My friend Robin and I were discussing our mutual frustrations with this Thanksgiving and, after quickly deciding against her suggestions of Ihop and Waffle House for Thanksgiving dinner, I decided to rent a cabin in the mountains of nearby Townsend and invited Robin and her family to come along. We would all just hang out and it would be close enough that all the kids could come and go for work as needed.
Apparently, lots of folks spend Thanksgiving in the Smoky Mountains. I thought I would NEVER find a cabin. Mind you, there are literally thousands of cabins for rent in the Smoky Mountains. There were almost none available. I spent hours searching online and finally found a 2 bedroom available in Townsend and for a pretty good price. I was a little hesitant but went ahead with the contract. The website said the cabin had a hot tub, a volleyball net, a bonfire pit, and had horses on the 11 acre property. We could make this work.
I decided to go up by myself on Tuesday afternoon. Everyone else would come up after work on Wednesday. The kid’s friends would join us on Thursday evening. Some of the kids had to work on Friday and we would all leave on Saturday. There might be a lot of coming and going and sleeping on the floor but we are a laid back group and it would be fine. I just kept thinking mountains, hot tub, and bonfire.
What we got was amazing. The cabin was small but we made it work. When there were too many people in the house, we went outside. The kids fed the horses lots of apples, carrots, and bread. We explored the property looking for the pond which we never found until we were packing the cars on Saturday. There was an inspiring view of the Smoky Mountains and the sunrises were just beautiful from the rocking chairs or the swing on the porch. The hot tub was perfect and we had a bonfire each night. The sky was so clear and as we sat by the fire drinking hot spiced cider and staring up at the stars you could see every star in the sky. We all pitched in and cooked a yummy Thanksgiving dinner combining each family’s favorites. And I took lots of pictures. All the pictures here were taken around the cabin. I think this might have become one of my most favorite Thanksgivings ever.
I missed my family but I was with my family. Robin and her family are our family too. We vacation together at the beach every year and I am thinking this Thanksgiving thing might become a new tradition too. And I will be returning to that cabin again. It just reinforced why I love the mountains.
As we sat in the hot tub, my daughter said “I could live here”. Me too babe. Me too.