For years, I made the arduous trek on I-95 North to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family in New Jersey. I varied the routes, but no matter what, we sat in a highway-turned-parking lot for hours upon hours.

But the schlep was worth it.

No matter the time of day, I’d walk into my childhood home filled with the comforting smells of turkey roasting, soup bubbling and pies baking. The house would fill with the sounds of glasses clanking, knives chopping and endless chatter about things meaningful and meaningless.

As the day wore on, the mercury inside the house would rise as more and more grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins overflowed the rooms. The football game was always on in the background, and inevitably the day always ended with my father and uncle snoring on the sofa.

I don’t recall the traditional “what are you thankful for” round-robin conversation—though it may have occurred. But it wasn’t necessary. We all knew we were thankful for every ounce of food and family that was filling the home.

Nearly a decade ago, circumstances prohibited that arduous trek up I-95. Instead, my husband and I experienced our Thanksgiving with glances above the incubators that kept our newborn twins safe and warm. Suddenly, being thankful had an entirely new meaning. We were thankful for the beating hearts before us, and we were anxious and hopeful that those beating hearts would join us around a table at our next Thanksgiving.

This year, those beautiful and healthy twins, and their younger sister, are helping craft the Thanksgiving menu—which includes Hanukkah-inspired butternut squash latkes. While the trek up I-95 still isn’t feasible, we are grateful when our family can make the trip south, and we are even more thankful for the community around us, which has provided us friends who have become family.

While so many of us are dreaming of that perfect marriage between Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, I’m focusing on filling my home with the same comforting smells of turkey roasting, soup bubbling and pies baking—and the sounds of glasses clanking, knives chopping and endless chatter about things meaningful and meaningless. After all, that’s what Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are all about.