This week I am acutely aware that Thanksgiving is in two days…in the United States.
This is the first time that I have been out of the United States on Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Sure, it is packed full of colonialism and racism on some level but what it has become is a day full of family (chosen and bio or how you choose), food and gratitude. If we acknowledge the history and then move into what it could be, it unabashedly becomes my one of my favorite holidays?
When I was a kid, Thanksgiving meant the kick off to a grand holiday and magical season. It didn’t come with lots of stress or buying but it meant that each Thanksgiving we watched White Christmas after the meal and the Christmas season officially has begun. There is a bit more kindness during and after this holiday. We have continued the tradition of watching White Christmas every Thanksgiving and I hold true to the kick off of the season.
Moving into teenage and college years, Thanksgiving signaled a beginning of the end of the semester. The last big push. It also meant that I saw more and more people volunteer in places they normally wouldn’t and that became more of a value to me.
In grad school, while I was homesick for my family around the holiday because I couldn’t afford to fly home during Thanksgiving as I was saving for Christmas, my chosen sister and I started what we called Misfit Thanksgiving. All who could not go home were welcome to our apartment and invited to bring a traditional dish for them. Our last year we crammed more than 20 people into Misfit and the food was amazing…everything from different stuffings to salads to sushi, you name it. I loved Misfit with my whole heart and the crew was even so kind to watch White Christmas with me. I loved the diversity and the community. I loved the food and the lingering. We still talk much about Misfit. Someday we may bring it back on some level, somewhere. Misfit became a symbol of what could be.
And then coming back to Oregon and while I was in churches, Thanksgiving was really the one holiday where I wasn’t “on” for a big work thing. Thanksgiving was a breather and a time to really soak in family and being with them. This holiday also became the signal of the season in that my phone started buzzing constantly on Thanksgiving and didn’t end until New Years. All of a sudden people reached out in significant ways which always made me grateful for who is around me and community.
Thanksgiving for me has been significant and now that I am out of the country it is hitting me just how much.
While in Berlin, I didn’t think about it much because I have made some really great American friends so their talk of Thanksgiving was about getting together to play out our traditions. But here in Spain, I haven’t really met any other Americans in this town and there is nothing that says Thanksgiving even exists which makes perfect sense here. Ana asked me if we should make the foods I miss but that seems like a) not the things I miss the most and b) making so much food for two people and searching out Thanksgiving foods to make may be a little much.
I expected some homesickness but I guess I didn’t really expect the layers of homesick that I am feeling this week. I even yearn to be back with friends in Berlin so then I would be surrounded by some community that looks like what I know. I didn’t expect that. I didn’t expect to miss things of Berlin and perhaps not the depth that I am missing being with my family and people in Portland. I see friends leaving for family locations and different forms of feasts already happening and those are the tables and warmth that I miss. I don’t regret our month in Spain one bit but just acknowledging the layers and complexity of expat life.
what would you miss?