A fridge previously stocked with premade sandwiches, salad dressing, old takeout containers cleared out and instead filled to capicty with covered casserole dishes. Tables dragged together and carefully set with orange paper napkins and plasticware. Spouses snuck into the resident lounge and the Macy's day parade on in the TV in the background.
This was the scene of my very first (but definitely not my last) holiday in the hospital on call.
So many of my generation are stranded away from family for Thanksgiving - justifying the expense for a plane ticket home when Christmas is right around the corner is tough. One's early 20's are the time between flying the nest but before you generate a family of your own, and so "Orphan's Thanksgiving" is a popular tradition in our set. Fledgling adults gather around Ikea dinner tables with someone's first turkey in the oven, researched via Google:"How to Cook a Turkey" or a "Ok, now what?" phonecall home to Mom. Discussions inevitably turn to a competition of who had the craziest family shenanigans at the holidays.
All we wanted was familiarity - we didn't have the luxury of making our own plans, of joining our peers in relaxed camaraderie. We had a 2 hour window after morning weekend rounds and before the ER admits picked up steam. So we prepared pies, stuffing and all manner of vegetable drowned in butter or brown sugar - the holiest of comfort foods. Every available countertop was covered with the foods our all-female team spent our pre-call day preparing. Residents drifted in and out, some surgery, peds and even a stray radiologist but we somehow managed a Thanksgiving miracle - everyone sat down together and ate. We stuffed ourselves, made snarky comments about being grateful for the absense of the "census assassin" - an ER attending notorious for soft admits by the cartload.
But in residency, you create the family you need. My family that day was a mother of 3 who made amazing crock-pot turkey as her husband and children went to her in-laws, a pair of residents managing their simultaneous engagement and intern year, a surgical 3rd year between cases and my dear husband, smuggled in for a bit of time together.
And it was ok. Nobody could ever replace my Mom and Aunts cracking jokes after they killed the 1st bottle of wine, my cousin's latest camera and the 50 shots later uploaded to facebook or my Grandmother's gleeful torment of whatever cousin she's decided needs to give her another great-grand.
A family at its core is a family because they care for and support you - so even though I shared zero genetic material with the people around they table, we had ranted when times were tough, celebrated when we had it good and comforted each other when the shit really hit the fan.So, here you go - my Memorial family, circa Thanksgiving 2009.