Growing up in a British family, we lacked the cemented Thanksgiving traditions of most American families. We often ate roast beef instead of turkey because my Dad preferred it. We didn’t understand the obsession with cranberry sauce from a can (I still don’t). And I did not discover the deliciousness of pecan pie until my first Thanksgiving away from home during college. But despite our unusual approach to Thanksgiving, there was one American tradition we fully understood. Football. New York Giants football to be specific. Upon arriving in the US in the early eighties, my Dad promptly took an avid interest in American football. Watching his first game, the Giants vs. Jets, he concluded that the Giants were harder hitters and would therefore be his team. When I came along five years later, I was born into a New York Giants loving family.
While we might not have turkey, or cranberry sauce, or pecan pie at Thanksgiving, we certainly had football. Now, the Giants rarely play on Thanksgiving. Their last Turkey Day showing was 1992, against Dallas. And it was a blow out, we lost 30-3. So, why would football be so crucially important to a Giants loving family on Thanksgiving when we rarely play? Well, my Dad’s love for the Giants was closely matched by his utter hatred for the Dallas Cowboys. I suspect it was connected to the whole “America’s team” thing (and you know, those few occasions in the nineties when they delivered an ass-whooping to the Giants in critically important games). Outside of watching the Giants win, nothing gave my Dad greater pleasure than watching the Cowboys lose. Football on Thanksgiving consisted of sitting on the couch after dinner cheering (loudly) for whomever was playing against Dallas.
I’ve long since grown-up, moved out on my own and unfortunately haven’t made it home for Thanksgiving for the past six years. Instead of sitting down on the couch with my Dad to hopefully watch the Cowboys lose, we’ve texted or called from wherever we are to celebrate or complain about the results. This year will be a bit different. Losing my Dad in July I won’t be texting or calling to celebrate or complain the result of the Cowboys game. But while life can often be cruel and unfair, it can also be charmingly ironic. And I had the charmingly ironic luck to fall in love with a Cowboys fan. So this year, I will start a new tradition, sitting down on the couch with my Cowboys-obsessed fiancé, trying my damnedest to support Dallas as they take on the Washington Redskins (a difficult feat for a girl raised to loathe the Cowboys with all the passion of a thousand fiery suns). The loss of a parent is deeply felt, but traditions and memories help sustain you. And while my family’s tradition may be shifting into a new incarnation, I’ll always be able to happily recall sitting down on the couch on Thanksgiving cheering actively against the Cowboys. And hopefully, one day I can pass the tradition on to my own kids (much to their father-to-be’s chagrin of course!)