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Lara Patangan shares why, for her, Thanksgiving memories are not all about the food.

When I reminisce about Thanksgiving, I don’t think about food. If I am being honest, I don’t even think about being grateful.  What I recall is the excitement of being out of school, the quiet wonder of gazing out the car window at the rows of pines that lined the highway as we traveled to my Granny’s house, and the creak of her screen door as it flew open and I rushed inside her modest two-bedroom home straight into her warm and wrinkly arms.

I don’t think about the turkey.

Instead, I remember running to the park with my brother and sister and our two cousins. With a coveted cardboard box, we perched at the top of a giant hill that spilled onto an oval track. Squeezing together so we could all fit, we flew down the hill on our makeshift sled. We slid easily on the dead grass beneath. The nippy air rushed our faces. My heart raced with a giddy mix of joy and exhilaration. Then, having reached the bottom, we sprinted back up the steep hill to do it again with the same joyful tenacity as a Golden Retriever fetching a ball. We were tireless despite our pounding hearts, icy hands, and the tattered box that eventually disintegrated into pieces.  

I felt free.


children playing outside


I don’t think about sitting around a crowded table or how the brown gravy spilled onto my green peas.

Instead, I remember curling up next to my Granny and reading from her stack of magazines. I remember the gentle roll of her belly with each inhale and exhale. I folded into her quiet breath and wasn’t distracted by the din of the television or the mundanity of adult conversation. 

I felt safe.

I don’t think about the punk-red color of cranberry and whether it still had lines from the can that trapped it or the chunky tart texture of some homemade version my mother attempted.

Instead, I remember my uncle taking us to the minute market and handing us each a small brown bag. He told us to fill it with whatever we wanted. The decadence of his gesture remains a favorite memory. In awe, I carefully picked red-hot fireballs, purple ring-pops, pink bubble-gum cigars, and black envelopes of pop-rocks.  

I felt abundance.


pumpkin pie and pinecones


I don’t think about the perfectly smooth skin of the brownish-orange pie or the tub of Cool Whip that I much preferred to pie.

Instead, I remember giggling when I felt the stubble on my aunt’s leg and how when I called them stickers and continuously pet her leg as if she were a porcupine instead of a person, she giggled too. I remember jumping on the sofa bed with my cousins and eventually stilling into the springs that poked me in the back.  

I felt peace.

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Thanksgiving isn’t about food but the people who feed us. #catholicmom

Thanksgiving isn’t about food but the people who feed us. It’s about the time we have with our family that passes too quickly, the moments of joy we steal between all of the rushing and perfecting, and the memories that sustain us after those we love pass on. It’s about giving the people in our lives something to be thankful for that isn’t tangible but touches our hearts in a way that years later reminds us how small things become big. With abandon, I glide into gratitude for the people in my life as if I were still a small child huddled on a cardboard box ready to descend, only this time, into a warm memory.

For all of it, I feel thankful.


family setting Thanksgiving table

Copyright 2021 Lara Patangan
Images: Canva Pro