Sunday, November 25, 2007

Giving Thanks

When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. Mainly because of the food; the hours of anticipation waiting for that first crispy piece of turkey skin was maddening.

But, unlike so many other memorable events in my life, it wasn’t solely the food that made it such a outstanding day, it was the whole package. Cousins, aunts, uncles, grand parents, sisters, brothers, random friends-- this was the weekend that we all got together. Even more than Christmas. My extended family has a very diverse religious background and Christmas isn’t celebrated by everyone, so it is Thanksgiving that brings our family together.

This is how it was for me growing up; this is what I knew.

Living far from our home country, we expats sort of group together on Thanksgiving, making our own extended families. Girlfriends replace favored aunts, their children become surrogate cousins, maybe a neighbor plays the part of the kindly grandmother.

And it works out okay. But being away from real family during holidays is one of the greatest drawbacks that expats face.

We celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday, Saturday. Everyone works and has school on the actual day, so we always have held it on the following weekend.

For some reason, this year Thanksgiving felt like an afterthought. There was no anticipation, in fact my usual eagerness was replaced by a feeling of melancholy about the whole feast.

As I began to make the stuffing, early yesterday morning, I realized how my apathy towards the planning of the meal could prove to be my undoing. I had a lot of food to prepare, little time and no family-- aunts, cousins or grandmothers, around to help.

I was just beginning to slice the crust off a couple of huge loaves of bread, feeling overwhelmed and blue (maybe a wee bit sorry for myself), when Camille walked into the kitchen and asked what I was doing.

‘Making stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner tonight, ‘ I said.

‘Can I help?’, she asked.

I almost began to cry. ‘Yes, I would love that’, I managed to get out.

I handed her a big bowl and the strips of soft bread that had to be torn into small pieces. She took them to the kitchen table and asked her almost-three-year-old twin sisters to come and help, too. The two little ones climbed up on the table, while Camille sat on a chair, and they spent the better part of any hour tearing up bread to make our Thanksgiving stuffing.

As I stood there watching them quietly tearing the bread apart, I realized that indeed I did have real family around to help me, I just wasn’t looking close enough.

1 comment:

Linda said...

Damn it! You made me mist up!