Cabarrus

Thanksgiving is all about family, unless...

Sometimes I wonder if every married couple has the same fights.

If so, then Phil and I have had the obligatory where-are-we-going-to-spend-the-holidays fight checked off the list for some time now.

Being an old-fashioned Southern girl, I naturally planned to spend all of my holidays with my family.

The men of our family, not wanting to go hungry on Thanksgiving, never put up much of a fight on this topic - until Phil.

Phil was born in the South, but his family moved around a lot while he was growing up.

I don't know if being uprooted a dozen times damaged his roots, but I secretly suspected that much was true - especially when, the first year we were married, he casually suggested that we go to Chicago, where his brother lives, for Thanksgiving.

It's not that I didn't want to go. I like Phil's brother very much, and I was excited to visit Chicago. I had never been there, or to any city with a real skyline.

I looked forward to bundling up and walking the Mag Mile and riding the L and going to the top of the Sears Tower.

I also looked forward to a leisurely Thanksgiving Day where I didn't have to do the heavy lifting in the kitchen.

What I didn't look forward to was being away from my family, especially when Thanksgiving is the only time I see some of them.

Also, I hadn't missed a family Thanksgiving - ever.

So Phil and I fought about it.

Did going to Chicago in our first year of marriage set a precedent? (I hoped not.) Did I consider my family more important? (Define "important.") How would we divide Christmas, Easter, and Independence Day? (Mine, mine, his.)

This was starting to feel like a custody arrangement, and we hadn't even had children yet, much less divorced.

But the latter, I definitely didn't want to be, so I sucked it up and went north for Thanksgiving.

Although I hate admitting it, I do have a bit of the prissy Southern belle in me. So I insisted on bringing along my dog, Gipsy, a miniature dachshund puppy.

Of course, I had bought her a little cable-knit sweater for those chilly Chicago walks, along with a soft-sided carrier for the plane trip.

Not only did Phil think it was ridiculous for me to bring the dog, he also thought it was ridiculous that I paid extra plane fare to do so, and that I paraded her around in her outfit like some kind of pampered pageant contestant.

All I could do was smile a little as Gipsy relieved herself on the well-manicured lawn at my brother-in-law's house.

I may have lost the battle, but the war was far from over.

Gipsy had her own say in the matter. To express her disapproval of the carrier, she chewed a dachshund-puppy-sized hole in the front mesh and made her own magnificent tour of my in-laws' house while we were on the Mag Mile.

We patched the carrier up with duct tape. It was hard to look prissy parading through O'Hare with a duct-taped carry-on.

And I think Gipsy helped Phil and I put the fight over holidays in perspective.

What she was saying, when chewing her way out of the carrier, was, "I love you, and I want to be with you, wherever you go."

This sentiment was just a precursor to the lessons on love and priorities that our two children have since taught us.

Gipsy was, after all, our "pre-baby" dog, a gift from Phil to me in the first weeks of marriage, the first thing that was truly ours.

It's fitting, too, that this lesson came at Thanksgiving.

It made me realize that I am thankful.

I am thankful for a family that has accepted my roots-damaged husband as one of their own, even if we don't get together at every holiday.

I am thankful for compromise. I am thankful that the sheer inconvenience of traveling halfway across the country pretty much guarantees that we will spend most holidays at home.

I am thankful to have a home, with kids and animals and a husband who's a little of both.

And, in my own damaged way, I am thankful to have someone to fight with.

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