Breaking a Family Tradition and the Surprising Result

by | Dec 13, 2017 | The Writer's Life | 6 comments

View from the Bridge at Boston Common

by Jamie Freveletti

I love the holidays, and my favorite is Thanksgiving. I love Christmas as well, but for me the whole point of a holiday is getting the family together and Thanksgiving allows for that without the hustle and bustle of gift purchasing, wrapping, sending cards, buying trees and hanging lights.

Which was why this year when one of the kids, both of ours are in college, said he’d have to remain at school to work over the holiday, I was bummed. I understood, he’s at Berklee College of Music and is on a mission to graduate in four years flat with a double major and a minor. During the break the studios at the school are empty, and he revels in the ability to spend hours there pounding out work.

My daughter is studying theater at NYU Tisch and had snagged a lead in a play on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and my husband and I were flying to see it. I proposed something else for after: All three of us would train it to Boston and spend Thanksgiving there. Because my son’s apartment is too small for a feast, we would stay in a hotel and eat Thanksgiving dinner at a Boston restaurant.

I’ll admit I kind of shuddered at my own idea. My holidays always involved pulling out the china, dressing the table, cooking the meal, and having everyone in the house laughing and watching the parade or movies after. Not many memories involved sitting in an empty restaurant and then heading back to a hotel room. But, I was determined to give it a try. My daughter, the cheery one who has laughed her whole life, laughed again and said, “Sure, sounds fun!” My son was enthusiastic and my husband thought it worth giving a try.

Painting at Yvonne’s

I immediately started looking for a restaurant. I landed on a Boston Magazine article that suggested a few restaurants for Thanksgiving and found Davios Italian Restaurant. Perfect. If I was going to be in a restaurant for Thanksgiving, then an Italian one would feel at least a little bit like home. When I called they were already booked in the evening but noon was available.

The train ride to Boston was wonderful, relaxing and filled with good conversation and beautiful views out the window. We landed at the Kimpton Nine Zero and caught two of our son’s rehearsals before heading to Yvonne’s, a fun Boston speakeasy with books and paintings of celebrities in vintage clothing lining the walls. (This one is Chistopher Walken).

Thanksgiving Day we all went to Boston Common to walk the Freedom Trail. I’d never done this, and for those who haven’t I highly recommend it. There’s a yellow line on the sidewalk that you follow and brochures with an explanation of each stopping point. Walking the Freedom Trail must be a Thanksgiving tradition for some, because there were plenty of families braving the chill to stroll it. Our daughter read the brochure out loud as we walked, adding a bit of theatrical flair to it that kept us all laughing.

Old State House, Boston

We stepped into Davios and were met with a restaurant filled to the rafters with families, small children, grandparents and couples! They greeted the owner with hugs and smiles. He told us that coming to Davios is a Thanksgiving tradition for many and the slots fill up weeks before. The meal was wonderful and we toasted to family. The best part? No clean up after!

But another surprise was to come. Because we had eaten so early, by eight o’clock that evening we were hungry again and contemplated finishing off the leftovers. The streets were empty, the storefronts darkened, and the occasional tram rolling by was the only activity.  When my son suggested we see if Shabu-zen, a Japanese hot pot restaurant in his Allston neighborhood was open, we all shrugged and said, why not?

We strolled there, stepped in, and the same magic happened. Families jammed the place, all with several generations in tow. The host greeted us with a smile and we sat at a table with a built-in cook top in the center. The host brought a divided pot that he placed on it and poured two types of sauces in each side, one spicy, one less so, and gave us chopsticks, plates of sliced raw steak, chicken, vegetables and noodles. We were to place our choices in the boiling sauces and then fish them out to eat. We had a blast. The food was outstanding and the atmosphere filled with good will. We cooked our food and the conversation was lively. The next day my husband and I had the airport to ourselves as we flew home.

If you would have suggested to me that one of the best Thanksgivings I have ever had would involve eating at not one, but two restaurants and staying in a hotel, I would have thought you were crazy. But this one was truly special and I’m thankful to my family for their flexibility and willingness to try something different. I’d also like to thank the restaurant and hotel employees who helped make the day a lovely one. My son graduates this May, and so who knows what’s in store for next year, but you can be sure that whatever it is, I’m ready for it! And I’d love to hear about any of your breaks in tradition that turned out to be wonderful.

Have a safe and joyful holiday season!

Best, Jamie

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  1. Karna Bodman

    Jamie – What a nice story about your wonderful family time "breaking tradition." (I especially can identify with "no clean-up" after a big dinner). And by the way, you certainly have a couple of obviously extremely talented "children" — keep us posted on their activities and upcoming careers!

  2. Gayle Lynds

    You're making me nostalgic, Jamie. What a great moveable feast, and to learn this is a tradition for many made it all the more touching. Family and a table to sit at to celebrate love. There's nothing better. Thank you!

  3. S. Lee Manning

    Sounds like a great new family tradition. I like the no afterwards work part of this plan, too.

  4. Jamie Freveletti

    Yes, the no work after was excellent and this is a tradition I just might be able to adapt to in the coming years. And Karna I will definitely keep you posted on any further adventures!

  5. Chris Goff

    Great recounting. It has sparked my own memories of the few holidays where we stepped outside the box to celebrate in a different way. Those memories remain strong. Yours sounds like a perfect Thanksgiving!

  6. Jamie Freveletti

    It was! And you're right, stepping outside the box is well worth it sometimes.