Like a lot of families in this country, mine is scattered all over. On my side, I have relatives living in Memphis; Nashville; Richmond; Baltimore; Charlotte; Florence, Alabama; Washington, D.C.; and Santa Barbara, California (my stray brother, who loves to surf). My wife has family in Knoxville; Nashville; Atlanta; Raleigh and Brevard, North Carolina; and Key West (where they thankfully escaped from Hurricane Irma). It's hard to keep up with everyone, even on Facebook, but we gather each year, usually in Memphis or Knoxville, and celebrate Thanksgiving. Plane tickets are booked, cars are packed, and miles are traveled, all so we can be together for a few indulgent hours. For us, Turkey Day is all about travel.
Given all the players, locations, and logistics, you never know who's going to show up. Babies are born, jobs get in the way, and stuff just happens. The hosts are aware of this, which is why they start campaigning for attendance in early summer—and trying to gauge whether girlfriends and boyfriends are coming, a source of endless speculation. My mom makes it even more interesting by inviting whoever she happens to run into, a habit my grandmother (whom we call Mamau) kids her about. When Mom went to the bank recently and mentioned a friendly teller, Mamau asked, "Did you invite her to Thanksgiving?"
Other than the turkey, dressing, and Bloody Marys (a legacy of my late Uncle Goodloe), we don't have a lot of long-standing traditions. Thanksgiving is a laid-back affair with plenty of room for error and a wide berth for innovations. One year, Mom made macaroni and cheese for our expanding posse of kids, and the "grown-ups" ate it all—so now it's on the regular rotation. We've fried turkeys in a huge vat of peanut oil, smoked them on a Big Green Egg, and once (for a really large crowd) cooked a pair of 18-pounders. For the sides, everyone brings something, and it all gets served.
WATCH: How to Smoke Your Thanksgiving Turkey
Another year, my Aunt Dorritte had us all write down what we were thankful for on a small piece of paper and put it in a hat. It was a game, and we had to guess who had written what. This was shortly after my daughter was born, and my brother, Marshall, said he was thankful there was finally a girl in the family. I don't remember what I wrote down—nothing very original, I'm sure—but I know I was grateful to have made the trip.
I've told you enough about my family's traditions. What are yours? We'd love to see how readers across the country are spending the holiday. Please share photographs of your elegant table settings, delicious side dishes, giant family gatherings, showstopping desserts, or any other festivities with us on Instagram using #SLThanksgiving, and we'll regram some of our favorites.