Happiness is….sitting down in a clean house after the carnage of a busy day celebrating. We just finished shifting the furniture back to where it belongs after clearing a space in the conservatory for everyone to sit down and eat Thanksgiving dinner. Celebrating it overseas is not easy. You really have to work hard to make it happen. It’s a lot of fun sharing it with people, and introducing them to the delights of pumpkin pie and green bean casserole….but at the same time, you are in that mode of “making it happen”
I now think my husband gets it. He didn’t before, but after five years of marriage, he is starting to.
First thanksgiving overseas, 2001. Ireland! I was on a total high just by the very fact that I was living there. Missionaries from Cork graciously invite me to theirs for Thanksgiving but I had not been away from the states long enough to really truly appreciate it. Had a lovely time though.
Second Thanksgiving, 2002. Was fully into the swing of not living in America, and was really not bothered about the day. In some ways I was almost doing the “I don’t need to celebrate Thanksgiving, I live in Europe now”. I had a lot of other things going on in my life and it seemed pretty insignificant.
Third Thanksgiving, 2003, I’d JUST moved to England, as in, I think i’d arrived the week before. Random people I’d only just met decide we should celebrate thanksgiving. Memories are of not having a car and slogging back from the supermarket on the Saturday with ready made pie crust and ingredients for a green bean casserole. I also remember it being a huge massive ordeal getting the tinned pumpkin of the internet. Anyway, we did the meal, I hardly knew the people, and to top it off….someone put a steaming pot of mashed potatoes on the coffee table and ruined the French polish. I was totally mortified! Nice way to impress my hosts!
Thanksgiving 2004…not too bothered this year, but my mom was actually visiting, so she cooked up a Thanksgiving meal for Jon and I, and his family which was really sweet. Also, we went to Ex-pat party in Liverpool on the Saturday and ate lots of pumpkin pie.
Thanksgiving 2005. This was the year it really hit me. I had just gotten married, and four years of “I’m not homesick in the least” caught up with me. I missed everyone as they had all recently been over for my wedding. Marianne to the rescue with Chinese take-away and everything remotely American she could find flying through Tesco at 7:00 PM. So family was far away but friends were near to cheer.
Thanksgiving 2006. Not so bothered this year as I was 9 months pregnant. However Marianne organized baby shower/thanksgiving party at her’s for me….no pumpkin pie or anything but a lovely thought and a nice night.
Thanksgiving 2007…AMERICA at last!!! Very excited. Jon experiences it for the first time, complete with Black Friday shopping. We go to my Aunt’s house whom I consider an expert at warm fuzzy Thanksgiving tradition. There are tons of people, two tables, mismatched chairs…all that. Somehow I managed to end up with a piece of store bought pumpkin pie, however the whole week was great…lots of Starbucks coffee.
Thanksgiving 2008…South Africa!!! With the help of friends who are totally up for it and raring to go, we have a storming Thanskgiving. We invite loads of people to our small house and the the neighbours totally kick in and help. Everyone brings a traditional recipe that I’ve assigned them, and we have a massive feast. They all vow to keep the tradition going and can’t get over how much fun it is. Jon finally turns to me and says “ok I get it now….thanks for this!!!” I vow after this to make it special for our family in years to come.
Thanksgiving 2009….back in England…just had Judah, living in Sandbach..not in the best of spirits…I am completely fine with not celebrating this year but committed to celebrating in future. However good friends John and Rebecca have us over on the Saturday and I made some of the traditional recipes and we mark it nonetheless.
So that brings us to this year. Jon actually booked the day off work! Iona is old enough this year to start to really get it and appreciate it. I start planning a menu and making plans and inviting people. I was excited to be doing it on the day itself. However, a week before, our oven element breaks!! We order a new one but are uncertain of when it’s going to arrive! The day before I get all emotional and cry and say how stupid it is to try and be celebrating it..I’m stressed about the oven…etc. The day itself arrives and I have a back up plan sorted out…but then at the last minute the oven part arrives and all is well. We celebrate that evening and it’s all nearly perfect. The only thing missing is overnight guests…will have to work on that for next year. In many ways, this Thanksgiving was a great reflection on this year for us…it’s been a huge year of drama….and more highs and lows than ever..but we now have so much to be thankful to God for. A stronger marriage, a beautiful new home, a sense of finally putting some roots down and being settled, and of course good friends.
I think next year I’d like to find some stray ex pats to include in the celebrating…I love introducing new people to the holiday but it’s also great to share it with people who share the memories and for whom it means something to. I know to some extent I am always going to the one having to “make it happen” over here…it’s just one of the consequences of being overseas. I can either get all sad on the day and bemoan how it’s “not the same” as it is back home, (which it isn’t, no matter how well I do at it, it won’t ever be quite the same) or I can put myself out there and make the effort. It feels a little bit foolish…but, it’s worth it, especially for the kids..and for those who get to experience pumpkin pie for the first time!