-- There are years when many of us simply can't afford to attend family Thanksgiving festivities.
Though it's never easy, here are eight ways to lessen the feeling of missing out, and being missed.
Phone Tag: Consult with the host on when a good time to call would be— during the cocktail hour? After dinner when everyone's lounging about? Ideally, everyone could pass the phone around for a quick holiday chat, without interrupting the festivities. If your family has Skype capabilities, so much the better.
Send Photos, Low-Tech: Your parents, grandparents, and/or other loved ones would love to see recent (printed) photos of you (and your family and friends), especially if you or they are not on social media. Don't be shy— you look awesome and you're always doing cool stuff. Pro tip: if your grandparents— or any relatives— have vision trouble, consider having your photos printed larger than you normally would.
Send Photos, High-Tech: The day of, text your family photos of your Thanksgiving, so they can imagine where you are and what you're up to. One year I sent my family photos from my morning hike up San Francisco's Twin Peaks and then from our lovely post-dinner stroll around Bernal Heights.
Send a Treat: if you always bring fudge or cookies or peanut brittle to Thanksgiving, look into making some ahead of time and shipping it. You could also send mail-order pie, cinnamon-glazed pecans, or dark chocolate chickpeas, and while this might be a bit pricey, it's nothing compared to the cost of plane tickets.
Send a Soundtrack: Who wouldn't love a custom-made mix CD to play during dinner? If I'm hosting, the last thing I want to worry about is the music.
Send a Game: At every family gathering, we wish that someone had remembered to bring board games. Come to your family's rescue by sending Qwirkle ($20 on Amazon) or Bezzerwizzer ($16 on Amazon), and reap the rewards the next time you do visit.
Gather Family Recipes Ahead of Time: Nobody makes apple pie like your uncle or rolls like your mom, but you can try your damndest. Most cooks would be beyond flattered to be asked for one of their signature recipes, and you'll insure that their dish lives on in the family.
Declare Your Own Thanksgiving: Many of us have to work on Thanksgiving, leaving little-to-no time and energy left for cooking and feasting. Celebrate Thanksgiving on whatever day you do have off, and live it up.