With the holiday season rapidly approaching, I keep wondering what my first holiday season away from my family will be like. I feel incredibly fortunate that I made it to my mid-twenties before spending the holidays away from my family and their familiar traditions.

This afternoon will be the first time that I will not be with my parents, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandma as they sit down to Thanksgiving dinner together. They will gather at my grandma’s house, whose counters will probably be covered in snacks and appetizers despite the approaching feast.

My uncle will most likely follow my late grandpa’s tradition of brining and grilling the turkey. After everyone stuffs their faces with mashed potatoes, turkey, and Grandma’s sticky buns, someone will help Grandma carry her Christmas tree up from the basement and set it up to the left of the fireplace in her living room.

By the end of the day, everyone will have forgotten which wine glass is theirs, and Grandma will make sure that at least one whole pie goes to every household, along with the rest of the Thanksgiving leftovers.

While I am already missing that time with my family, I still have much to be grateful for.

I am grateful for my loving, dedicated, supportive husband. I am grateful for the friends we have made in Grenada, some of whom we are lucky enough to be spending Thanksgiving with. I am grateful for my dog and his growing appreciation of cuddling.

I am grateful to have such a great relationship with my family and for all the memories and traditions that we share. I am grateful for my friends back home and that it is easy to stay in touch with them thanks to technology. I am grateful for my able body, the place we currently call home, the chance to live on abroad, free Wi-Fi, and the existence of ice cream.

That’s all well and good. While I really truly am grateful for all those things – and too many more to count – two things stand out to me about that list.

The first is that I’m surprised more food items didn’t make it onto the short list of things that I am grateful for. I mean, I plan my day around my meals. I am also truly sad for Husband, who does not seem to have the capacity to experience the pure joy that I do from eating delicious food. The short list may have to be revised to include Chipotle – of course I know the guacamole is extra – and pizza, at the very least.

All kidding aside, the other thing that stands out to me about the list is that most of the things that I am grateful for are the people in my life and the time that we are able to spend together.

The holidays can get so busy with gift buying and social engagements that it is easy to forget about what the person that you are buying the gift for means to you, or that you should be enjoying the time with the company that you are in.

As we gather with friends and family today and through the rest of the holidays, take a moment to really notice and appreciate the people you are with. Step back and notice the little conversations everyone is having, how the turkey smells, what the kids are doing. Take a snapshot of that moment in your mind so that you can remember it later.

If things get hectic during the coming weeks, return to that moment or think about the people in your life who you are grateful for and connect that to what you are doing. Connect it to why you are cooking, shopping, or traveling.

After all, it’s not just the decorations or the weather or the food or the gifts that make the holiday season special. It is the time that we take during the holiday season to spend time with loved ones and show them how much we care about them and to feel how much they care about us, that makes it such a great time of year.

I think that if we can keep sight of that, it will make the holidays even more enjoyable.