“Everyone dreads going home for Thanksgiving,” one of my children commented to me the other day.

“No, they don’t,” I responded. “They love it; they’re looking forward to it.”

Thoughts of movies and TV shows danced her in head while beautiful pictures from cooking magazines roamed through mine.

Who was right? Like so often, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. There are, unfortunately, really dysfunctional families where going home is akin to torture. There are also, I think, some really special families where going home is idyllic. And most of us fall somewhere in the middle. (I actually wait to make a turkey until Shabbos dinner and don’t bring my kids home so I can safely be left out of this survey!)

Most of us have good moments and bad, wonderful family times and some horrific fights. And some minor spats along the way. And some small joys. And that’s okay. That’s normal. That’s real life. Whenever we used to take family vacations when everyone was much younger and living at home, there would always be some fight early on in the trip – sometimes before we even got out of the driveway. Someone didn’t like their seat, someone was bothering someone else, someone was hungry but we didn’t have the right snacks – and so on. There would also be numerous struggles along the way. After all the effort that went in to preparing for a family adventure (a logistical nightmare that definitely rivaled and probably exceed Thanksgiving calculations) I would get frustrated. “This trip is ruined,” I would complain to my husband. “Let’s just turn around and go home.”

My husband, (almost) always the voice of reason – not to mention the one driving – convinced me to stick it out. But that wasn’t the most important piece of the lesson. What he really taught me was that it isn’t all or nothing. It’s not either a perfect family vacation or a disastrous one. It’s not the best trip ever or the worst one. It’s not the holiday of dreams or of nightmares. It’s just the way life is.

And I think this is of course true of most people’s experience of Thanksgiving as well. (And of Chanukah, and family reunions, and weddings, and exotic vacations and well, just everyday living…) It’s not perfect – because how could it be? Nothing in this world is. It’s not terrible. It’s life – with opportunities to laugh and some to cry, with moments of pleasure and some of intense pain. It’s the whole kit and caboodle.

There are certain occasions, certain moments where these experiences are heightened. When we are all together, we expect (and hope for) so much more. But if we are realistic (in a good way) and recognize what’s truly available, then I think we can appreciate the gifts we have, the family we have and this life we were given. Just a little tweaking of our vision – one less movie and one less magazine cover – and we can have a great family get-together, even if someone forgot the pumpkin pie…