In October, I shared the happy news that my sister was moving to North Carolina. It was exciting enough to have Kim in Nashville – in the South! a short flight away! – and Nat and Joe in Northern Virginia – a reasonable weekend trip! – but this development was a revelation. Kate and family are now outside of Charlotte, a little over two hours away from us, and that’s closeness of a whole different order.
Since my sister’s arrival about three months ago, we’ve gotten to taste the sweetness of proximity – taking the girls to the Nutcracker, organizing their new home together, texting about North Carolina happenings (since they now matter to all of us!), celebrating birthdays around the same table. And we’ve made plans, so many things to look forward to – trips to the zoo (the perfect halfway point between us!), shopping my favorite consignment sale elbow to elbow, weekend visits with scooter rides and cousins piled in the same room.
You have to understand that I truly never thought this would be our reality. My family always desired to be closer to each other, but everyone seemed firmly ensconced in their separate – widely scattered – states.
So, over the last almost ten years since moving South, we built our own life here. We’ve (slowly) made friends that have become family. We’ve worn traditions like grooves that have become part of our family identity, ones that were once new to us but will always be familiar to our kiddos.
Away from our hometown and our extended family, we turned homesickness into homeyness out of necessity – begrudgingly at first, and then with gusto. We had to make this place our home, even if our family wasn’t her. We couldn’t just wait for them to show up one day.
And I know that even as this was sometimes hard and lonely, it was also a gift, because some new couples in the literal shadow of their parents or hometowns are never quite able to set themselves apart, to establish their own traditions, celebrations, and identities. And we were.
And therein lies the rub. It happened almost immediately: Kate and Co moved in October, and the conversation quickly turned to Thanksgiving. Of course we were going to spend it together, since we were now so close! And of course we wanted to be with family on this most family-centric holiday!
But but but. For the last six years, we’ve eaten Thanksgiving dinner with our dear friends and their parents. Air travel at Thanksgiving is SO expensive, and besides, John has only ever gotten Thanksgiving Day off, making multi-day travel impossible. The Terhunes may not be our actual family, but Thanksgiving at their house has become a deeply-cherished tradition – the only Thanksgiving setting June has ever known!
But how to explain this to our flesh-and-blood family, who understandably assumed we would spend Thanksgiving with them?
It all shook out – we spent Thanksgiving Day with our friends, and then drove over to Charlotte after John finished work on Friday – but not without a small sense of disappointing people, at least on my part.
We are tasting a little bit of what those with family close by know well – the push and pull of obligations and expectations for time and presence. This is not the last time we will face this kind of quandary, and while our lives may be slightly more complicated for it, all I feel is grateful. After all, the only reason we now have more family expectations to navigate, is because we have more family. Thanks be to God.
Friends, I would love to hear what this has looked like in your life. Do you live close to your or your spouse’s immediate family? Have you always done so? If so, how often do you see each other? What have been the best and hardest parts?
Above, the North Carolina welcome box we sent Kate and Co before their move, filled with some of our favorite reasons to love the Old North State: popcorn from Asheville, peach candy, Chapel Hill toffee, a bucket list map, Cheerwine, Videri chocolate, the Western NC jam we served at our wedding, Duke’s mayo, cheese straws, an NC coloring book, the best magazine, and a CAT earth mover in honor of their presence in the state. It was so fun to collect and put together!