This summer when we took Noemi for a visit with family in Connecticut, I wrote a nibble about pondering the traditions you want to pass on. Now, as I sit down to write my take on Thanksgiving tradition, I’m taking that nibble for a little spin.
I’ll be honest; I never liked Thanksgiving all that much. The traditional dishes just aren’t up my alley and it always seemed like a whole lot of fuss for a meal that was over in thirty minutes. I played along, but it always felt like something I was supposed to love but never really, in my heart of hearts, did.
But everything changed between Thanksgiving and me three years ago with one little word: Noemi.
My husband Christopher and I had spent the bulk of September and October working through endless papers and forms and notarizations and fingerprints and exams to be put on the waitlist to adopt a Guatemalan baby, and on November 13th we’d finally turned in the last bit and were settling in for what we’d been told would be a long wait.
I doodled our daughter’s name—I’d picked out Saramaya in part because Sarah is one of my favorite names, in part to pay homage to her homeland—in my organizer. We wondered aloud whether she’d be born before the New Year. But never, ever did we think we’d get official clearance for a referral before January, let alone an actual match.
And then just four days later on November 17th, the week before Thanksgiving, the phone rang and Kelly Jo from Heartsent was on the other line. “I have something to tell you,” she said and I knew immediately from her voice—which I had gotten to know very, very well over the preceding months—that she had news. Big, big news. I told Kelly Jo to hang on as I raced to my husband’s office with my heart thumping out of my chest. “Oh my God,” he said when he saw my face and ran over to clutch my hand.
“I have a referral for you!” Kelly Jo unleashed the news. “We have your daughter. Her name is Noemi de Leon.” And, of course, all our predictions and plans and even the name we’d picked went right out the door. Noemi was Noemi from the moment she was born; and she was our daughter too.
The following Thursday, with our heads still spinning and our hearts gushing with joy, we propped up our very first pictures of our daughter on the table and made Pollo en Jocon—a simple Guatemalan stew. It was the best Thanksgiving we’d ever had.
In the years since we’ve pondered what, exactly, we wanted Thanksgiving to look like for our Huber clan of three and we’ve decided on a few things that are about as traditional as the way we became a family. We’ve agreed to indulge our thirst for exploring unknown places and people—a passion that was the seed to our adopting Noemi to begin with and one we’re eager to share with her. We’ve decided to keep it small so we can focus on deepening our ties as a family. And we’ve adopted Pollo en Jocon as our family’s “traditional” Thanksgiving dish so that, every year, we’ll be able to let our daughter know just how thankful we are for her while honoring her roots . . . no matter where the three of us may be.
This Thanksgiving, think not just about the traditions you want to pass on, but what new ones you’d like to begin too.