Susan Dromey Heeter's 'Budget Vogue': Lower expectations can mean happier holidays

SUSAN DROMEY HEETER November 03. 2012 7:28PM

So, Thanksgiving is right around the corner, just a few weeks away. Looming. Here at my Budget Vogue desk, I think back to Thanksgivings I've loved, I've enjoyed, I've ... endured.

Amazingly enough, none of my Thanksgiving memories are of the perfect place settings, the juiciest bird, the most expensive linens. Nope. They all have to do with being present on a Thursday in November, enjoying the moment, realizing that Thanksgiving, while generally fun, is simply another day, another Thursday - albeit with more food, football and, on occasion, family.

In the early '80s, my two sisters and I had a chance to visit Madrid on Thanksgiving. And guess what: Europeans do not celebrate this holiday.

While my sisters and I thought of far-off turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie that long ago day, the Spaniards still went to work. Restaurants and stores were open. All was business as usual.

We ate paella that particular Thanksgiving, and what else do I remember? While walking along the crowded Centro de Madrid, my sister felt her bag being tugged by a passing ladrone - a thief. Fortunately, we caught the crime in time and nada was stolen. Clutch.

Now THAT was a reason to be thankful. We still had our credit cards, passports and dinero. Happy Thanksgiving indeed.

Pancreatic cancer was a guest at one Thanksgiving, when my mother celebrated her final Turkey Day in 1995. That Thursday in November was especially meaningful as my siblings and I realized this was it. No more turkeys made by our mother on Thanksgiving, no more Thanksgiving dinners with Mom.

It was the grand finale, and when my mother asked for a piece of pumpkin pie, I thought, "Wow, now THIS had better be good." As I sliced that pie, the pressure was on. I snapped a picture of that piece of dessert, realized the significance of Thanksgiving and my mom and, well, life on life's terms.

I can't tell you if I even ate that Thanksgiving, but I do recall I wept a lot and, during certain moments, laughed amidst the sorrow - especially when my sister remarked, "This is like a Lifetime Television for Women movie starring Richard Chamberlain," and we cried and laughed and loved our mom on her last November Thursday.

By far, one of my favorite Thanksgivings was when I was getting new tires put on my Honda while I lived in the Netherlands. You know, I want a standing ovation whenever I do something tangibly good to my vehicle. And new tires on Thanksgiving? That day, indeed, was cause for celebration.

And it got better. First, I discovered the Macy's Day parade being broadcast on Dutch TV, and later, I dined at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Holland boasts a few KFCs, and there was one located right by my apartment in Maastricht. I'd never eaten at that particular fast-food joint, but on that day it provided a Thanksgiving bonus: extra-crispy chicken. Mmmm. Happy Thanksgiving.

High expectations tend to create disasterous Thanksgivings. Yes, I've had those moments of thinking that not only would mine look like a Norman Rockwell painting but that I would look like Heidi Klum with a drumstick in hand and happy children bouncing on my knee. That, unfortunately, has never been the case. My children never spent Thanksgiving bouncing on my knee; they tended to be sleep-deprived and restless, shoving their fingers into the mashed potatoes rather than sitting happily and quietly at the holiday table. I, meanwhile, looked far more like Rosanne Barr in her pre-plastic-surgery days than like Heidi Klum.

Yup, just another Thursday in November.

You really want to live the day in the moment? Sit a 3-year-old down for a long meal after an endless car ride while she's wearing tights. Yikes.

So, Thanksgiving is a wonderful occasion, a wonderful holiday, a stellar reason to indulge. Alas, it's also simply another Thursday in November - one when Kentucky Fried Chicken can taste phenomenal, when new tires literally can carry you through the day, when it's great to pause and delight in an incredible piece of pumpkin pie.

Enjoy a Budget Vogueingly wonderful Thanksgiving.

Susan Dromey Heeter's "Budget Vogue" column appears the first week of each month in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email her at

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