I’ve never spent a Thanksgiving away from family before. I’ve also never made ham and pickle roll-ups, experienced Wisconsin winter weather, or drank goat milk. However, thanks to my hospitable and generous teammate, this November I got to do all that and more.

My plans changed very suddenly on the night before Thanksgiving break, and as I was scrambling to find a new place to go, my teammate Hannah immediately offered for me to head home with her for a few days. I willingly accepted, and as we headed out the next morning, I was excited and just a little nervous about meeting multitudes of friends and family members.

photo 4I mean multitudes quite literally–her dad is the youngest of twelve children, and several of his siblings have at least ten kids of their own. When I found out we would celebrate Thanksgiving on the farm at Grandma’s house, I began to mentally prepare to be the foreign face in a group of joyful, reunited relatives. As unsure as I was of how well I would fit in, the family immediately welcomed me as one of their own and I took part in several of their traditions.

Even though I had no expectations for my first Midwest holiday, here are 3 things I never thought I would experience over this Thanksgiving break:

1. Farm fresh goat milk– Not all dairy farms in Wisconsin raise cows. Hannah’s family gets all of thphoto 3eir milk from her uncle’s goat farm, and on Thanksgiving, they took their glass bottles to the farm to refill them for the week. It could just be my taste buds, but I couldn’t even recognize a difference in taste between the goat milk and regular 2 percent. Not only do I now have the bragging rights to say I have tried it, I even visited the barn where all the goats are kept.

2. Packer Nation– Wisconsinites are dedicated fans of Green Bay football, so the nationally televised Thanksgiving football game was more than just entertainment. Even Grandma had her own TV tray in front of the recliner. The Packers’ loss couldn’t keep the family down for long though. They all filed outside to participate in their own Thanksgiving football game that pitted brother against brother, cousin against uncle, and father against son. Those dedicated enough to brave the freezing temperatures witnessed enough trick plays, touchdown dances, and Hail Mary’s to more than make up for Green Bay’s disappointing performance.

3.Adoption– From helping to make appetizers for the Thanksgiving meal to playing card games by the wood stove, I became the seventh member of Hannah’s family for three days. I learned about how her parents met in the seventh grade and were voted “most likely to get married” in their high school yearbook. I visited that same high school to watch her brother’s basketball game, and walked around the farm her dad grew up on after eating an overwhelming amount of turkey and pie. We worshipped together on Thanksgiving morning, reminding me that no matter how different family traditions can be, we are all brothers and sisters bonded together through Christ.

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In college, people become completely their own. Their image isn’t influenced by what people think of their family or their background, only by the personality they choose to present. This can be good and bad, but I found that getting to know someone’s family is almost like getting a glimpse into their past and finding a truer understanding of who they are.

I learned that everyone’s family can be completely different, and yet similar in so many ways. We all have that one recipe that has proven its worth over decades, and that relative who seems to have endless stories to tell. By being fully immersed in my teammate’s Thanksgiving traditions, I not only gained a better understanding of her life and background, but the significance and universal value of family.



Feature image by: http://www.livelaugheat.com/2010/11/26/thanksgiving-brunner-feast-with-a-twist/