MONIQUE BATSON — While holiday foods have changed, one tradition has stayed in place

Published 12:05 am Friday, November 26, 2021

Holiday traditions are extremely interesting to me — observing the different ways other families share time, meals, etc.

Perhaps because mine have, for the most part, been non-conventional — especially in the last few years.

During my marriage, the various different family gatherings and meal choices were rather almost intimidating. First, there was the planning. His parents were divorced, so we were looking at three different houses besides ours to celebrate a holiday. Also, the older two alternated between us and their biological mom, spending Thanksgiving with us and Christmas with them one year, then alternating the next. Since my mother absolutely has to have every member of her family in her presence at Christmas, she’d move Christmas to February if necessary.

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But I digress.

Every Thanksgiving morning, I would wake my children and force them to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. They would grumble, groan, try to hide under blankets, practically bite my hand off. But ultimately they’d drag their blankets to the couch and watch along.

Then came the traveling. While we didn’t have far to go to any of the aforementioned homes, we did have to load four kids into a vehicle to do it. When they got older, this was much easier. But in the younger years — the ones with car seats and diaper bags — it was like chasing hamsters with ADHD around a yard. Once you caught one, a previously belted child was back out of the van and running in the opposite direction. Finalizing this process was tiring enough that by the time we turned the van on, it was almost like, “Nope, forget this, it’s nap time.”

It wasn’t hard to understand why a lot of families opt to spend their holidays on vacation in a different state.

But then came the food differences. One houses had your traditional holiday spread from turkey and ham to cranberry sauce — none of which my picky children would actually eat. One house had a turkey. If you wanted anything else, you needed to bring it with you. When I was young, one house (my biological father’s Quibodeaux side) served gumbo. There was no potato salad — what’s that about anyway? — or anything else but Ritz crackers, Tabasco sauce and my grandfather drinking beer and listening to Zydeco and/or Alan Jackson on vinyl. And then there was my mom, who was always the last house because, as I said, people needed to be freed up; so she just ordered deli sandwich trays since everyone else had already eaten somewhere else by that time.

But for the last four years, holidays in my immediate house have been just me and my children. And even through they’re all older now, they’ve yet to acquire the taste for traditional holiday food.

While I absolutely love turkey, dressing and all of the things that go along with it; they do not. My favorite has always been my mother’s green rice, which she would make two huge pans of — one for the family dinner and one just for my house. Why I can only have this at Thanksgiving or Christmas is beyond me. It’s just broccoli, cheese and rice, none of which are out of season in April. But I can’t make it, so I’m at her mercy.

In truth, I can’t cook well at all. I once burnt a pot of water trying to boil eggs for my mom. So when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, I’m just a servant to my kids and their choices.

This year’s menu? Chicken strips with gravy, shells and cheese, baked beans, mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce, and boudin balls. Thursday looked like the full side of a restaurant kid’s menu.

Our first Thanksgiving as a two-household family, I opted to skip the day and send them them with their father as I had no other family (my mom and stepdad spend the day with his family) and felt at least that way, they could spend the day around as much family as possible.

But when they stopped by for a quick visit around 7 p.m., the first thing my youngest did was turn on the TV, pull up the Macy’s parade on YouTube and play it.

He never told me he enjoyed it, and I never told him how much that made me cry (joyfully) when I walked around the corner.

The food and houses may have changed, but it turns out we have a tradition after all.


Monique Batson is the Port Arthur Newsmedia editor and can be reached at