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Slices of peace on a hectic holiday

No traffic, no turkey, no problem for Nicholas

No traffic, no turkey, no problem for Nicholas Paquette. Credit: Handout

For years, the bulk of our Thanksgiving Day was spent on the Long Island Expressway and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway as we tried to hit both sets of parents for the holiday. It didn't matter if my husband, a physician, was on call, or if we had to bundle up our 3-week-old son -- we were the ones who were always in the car. We got to a point where the only thing we were thankful for on Thanksgiving was arriving before dessert.

Finally, one year, we told everyone we were staying in Manhattan for Thanksgiving. We had been invited to dinner at good friends' apartment, two blocks away, and would finally get to relax and sit through an entire meal.

Two days before our dare-to-be-different Thanksgiving, there was a death in the family. Family laid on the guilt as they begged us to come, but we remained firm that we would stay in the city.

Thanksgiving morning came, and we were still getting calls to "stop by" in Brooklyn for a snack. We finally caved, but said, "Don't wait for us to eat." Our mood was dampened because we had to tell our hosts we had to leave early.

When we got to their apartment, the table was festively set, the courses beautifully presented, and the atmosphere was warm and cozy. We wined and dined and for the first time in many years, relaxed completely.

However, the B train awaited us. Slightly embarrassed and resentment simmering, we left quickly after a luscious dessert. We got to Brooklyn an hour late, and, of course, they had waited for us. There were twice as many people in attendance as we thought, and it was clear by the haphazard cacophony in the kitchen that this was the complete opposite of where we had just come from.

The next day, we had an early morning flight to South Florida. We had been going every year to Hollywood Beach to spend the weekend sans phones, faxes and beepers, wear old clothes and no makeup. When we landed, we were greeted by swaying palm trees and an ocean that sparkled like diamonds. My husband turned to me and said: "I'm done with tradition. Let's make our own tradition. Next year, it's pizza on the beach for Thanksgiving."

The next month, the airlines opened up their flights for Thanksgiving of the next year, and he booked four tickets on American's 6 a.m. flight out of LaGuardia. We landed before the Thanksgiving Day parade started. Our favorite New York-style pizza place, Rocco's, had a takeout special, $7.99 a pie.

That was more than 10 years ago. We have been flying to Florida for our Thanksgiving pizza ever since. We don't miss the turkey, the trimmings, the desserts or the traffic. Instead, we have created a family tradition that belongs solely to us. When we tell people our Thanksgiving plans, they cheer us on.

--Jennifer I. Paquette, Manhattan

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