Finding Balance in a Two-Part Thanksgiving

Article and Photos by Alicea Ulmer

When my parents divorced 13 years ago, my siblings and I started a long holiday commute between my mom’s home in Far Rockaway and my dad’s on Staten Island. We usually made the two-hour trip in the middle of the day so we could see both parents. But the older we got, the tougher that trip became.

We don’t want either of our parents to feel neglected. But my brother and I are busy in college, both of us are on sports teams with demanding schedules even over holidays. It’s become difficult to be in two places on a single holiday.

One of Alicea Ulmer’s two Thanksgiving spreads.


This year’s Thanksgiving holiday was the first of what could be a new tradition.

My younger sister lives in Far Rockaway with my mom, I live on Staten Island with my dad and my brother lives on campus in Brooklyn at St. Francis College during the school year. And this year, my mom had to work a double shift on Thanksgiving.

It meant a lot to my mom to have all her children together; but, under the circumstances, she knew it would be an impossible task to gather all of us on Thanksgiving Day.

So this year, I kicked off the holiday on Wednesday afternoon. I traveled two hours to Far Rockaway on the Staten Island Ferry and the A train to spend Thanksgiving Eve with my mom and close friends. My mom cooked a big meal. We ate, talked and listened to music all night.

Cherry-and-cream cheese pie, made by Alicea Ulmer's father.
Alicea’s father’s famous cherry and cream cheese pie.

The next morning, my sister and I woke up at 8:30 a.m. to travel back to Staten Island. We spent the evening with our three siblings, stepmom and my niece.

Dad cooked a big spread, as he does every year. Before we dug in, we joined hands around the table and my dad said a prayer and blessed the food. We packed our plates and sat down to watch college basketball throughout the evening; sports are a big deal in that household.

We topped off the meal with the dessert we all love and have ever Thanksgiving: my dad’s famous cream cheese-and-cherry pie with a graham cracker crust.

At the end of the evening, I went to see my childhood best friend, who lives across the street from my dad. She is also on a college sports team, and her schedule is hectic as well. It felt good to catch up and spend time together, just like old times.

This turned out to be one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve had in a while. I have a lot to be thankful for. The food was amazing. But it was the people sitting at the dinner tables with me, in both Far Rockaway and Staten Island, who made the holiday special.