By: Amber Leventry
I was talking to a new friend recently about Thanksgiving. We have friends in common, my neighbors actually, and this friend gushed over the massive Thanksgiving dinner event which takes place on the end of my street each year, at our mutual friend’s house. It’s the epitome of holiday tradition, and I love seeing the same cars and faces arrive every year even if I only know them through simple smiles and waves through windows.
I love Thanksgiving. For me, the menu alone makes it the best day of the calendar year. It is not required, but it is socially acceptable to be gluttonous. And if you time it right, you can eat an early dinner, let your stomach settle and then go back to the fridge for another round. It’s also socially acceptable to take a nap in the middle of the day with friends and family doing the same thing. And how great is it to wake up and start your day with a parade?
In the 18 years my partner, Amy, and I have been together, Thanksgiving has been in a different location from year to year, celebrated with different but equally important people. The holiday became a variation of our Vermont friends and their long distance family members who crossed state lines and into the threshold of our house. And in some cases, it has been us carrying casserole dishes, babies, and gratitude into the homes of our loved ones. But for the first time in a very long time, the tradition of being somewhere new for Thanksgiving dinner will end. We will be the long distance travelers again this year, driving to the same spot to spend the holiday with the same members of our extended family.
The coincidental nature of our relationship with our extended family started with sperm. Seven years ago they were a young couple on the west coast eager to start a family, and we were a young couple on the east coast with the same goal. Our ideals of the perfect sperm donor, serendipity, and luck caused us to choose the same anonymous donor from the same cryobank. We met through the cryobank’s sibling registry, a private place to share information if you want to connect with other families who used the same donor.
“We exchanged a few emails. Realized we had a lot in common, and ended up really liking them. They seemed to like us too. We made a plan to meet up with them for the first time four years ago. We spent Christmas together a couple of years ago and explained to our six kids that they are donor siblings through their sperm donor. But they just call each other brothers and sisters. We’ll miss our neighbor’s feast this year because we will be traveling to see our donor family again this Thanksgiving.”
As I explained this to my friend, in a loud and noisy restaurant, the look on her face was one I forgot was once mine. She was bemused, shocked, and curious. To someone learning our story for the first time, it seems a bit crazy to not only share a sperm donor with strangers but to also call those once strangers our family members. Sometimes I take for granted how fortunate I am to have such accidental love in my life. It felt good to be reminded of the power of small steps that lead to enormous results.
We and our six kids (ages ranging from 2-5) are counting down the days until we start the two-day drive to their house. Our five year old can’t wait to see her sisters, twins just a few months younger than she is. Our own set of twins can’t wait to see their little brother, thrilled to teach him a few new things about being three. My partner and I can’t wait to be in the company of another couple who share the same vices, love for our children, and the need to swear under our breath about all of it.
This new Thanksgiving tradition of being in the same place, with the same people for consecutive years is starting to feel like a family tradition. But it does not come with pressure. Much like our original interaction with our donor family, it happened with intentional circumstances but without expectation. It is one of the many organic things I love about the holiday, the day to eat, drink, and be ridiculously thankful for the people sitting around the dinner table.
Photo credit: Molly O. Photography