Two more days until Thanksgiving, which is (shockingly) not celebrated here. I mean, it is just the celebration of surviving the first year outside of England. Anyway, the stores to make certain items available for us americans. Waitrose, a small supermarket up the street, has the traditional Thanksgiving Chicken available. And if you don’t mind other subsitutes, you can include mashed British potatos (imports not allowed), and use a butternut squash in your pumpkin pie.
I am going to have dinner with the students from the IES centre at a restaurant. Thanksgiving is something that each of our centers worldwide finds a way to celebrate–turkey and all. Last year, so I heard, even Beijing had a Turkey. Turkeys are harder to find in China.
Anyway, does it bother me that I’m not at home for Thanksgiving. Some, but it is a holiday I’ve been missing almost every year since I studied abroad.
Thanksgiving was something we always split between both extended families–mornings at Sister’s in Eminence, Indiana. This was the rowdy, boistrious, fun dinner. My Great Aunt Sister’s kitchen and back room were overflowing with country goodness–Chicken and Noodles (real noodles), Turkey, green beans, mashed taters, pumpkin pie, apple pie, peach pie, cobblers. At Sister’s there was one large adult table and one long kid’s table. The kids sat under sister’s collection of baskets–500 or so, hanging on hooks attached to the ceiling, the walls, to more baskets. I think the long table was just a door on some crates. We all sat on the floor around the table. It meant we got to eat first and then be out of the way. In the kitchen, all the extra leaves were added to the table and the adults had dinner. They had loud, hilarious conversations and shouted over the TV. After we ate dinner, we kept eating. Peeling back the tinfoil for just a little bit more. Just one more bite of something. Having coffee and kool-aid and ice tea, even in the winter. In addition to watching football, we watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, because Thanksgiving kicked off Christmas. Even later the word game would start. Someone would pull out the unabridged dictionary, pass out scraps of paper, and the Willet version of Balderdash started. But, usually midway through “Christmas Vacation” my family would hop in the van and drive one hour for our second dinner at my grandparent’s house.
My paternal grandparents hosted a much more formal Thanksgiving, with all the trimmings. Wild rice and mushrooms and Turkey, which my grandfather carved at the head of the table. A million desserts and mashed potatos and gravy. And green stuff–our favorite dessert. One of my cousins or aunts made it–a mixture of whipped cream, marshmallows, and green jello. Delicious. There was an adult table and a satellite kids table. The kid’s table was a card table, formally set for the four of us grandkids. For Thanksgiving, we ate the same food as everyone else, but for Christmas we were allowed to eat tuna salad sandwhich and the adults had to eat something with oysters or clams. Oyster Stew, I think. One Thanksgiving, my mom wrestled the honor of cooking the turkey instead of my grandpa. It was time for a practical joke, as Grandpa was pretty protective of the turkey. She showed up with two birds–a perfectly cooked turkey, hidden in the car, and a cornish hen. She brought the cornish hen out on a platter for my grandpa to carve and then complained that it must have gotten a little dry in the oven. Don’t worry, there is still a real turkey.
Anyway, sometime in junior high my grandparents retired to Texas, so Thanksgiving Dinner ended with them and we would just go to Sister’s. We kept going to Sister’s house into college, but would sometimes go to my Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Barbara’s house in Reelsville. Then I missed my first thanksgiving in 1998, when I was in Ushuaia in southern Argentina. Then I missed my second thanksgiving in 1999, my first year in colorado and I went to southern Iowa with fellow hall directors. Christmas of 1999 I went home and that is when Sister passed away. It was right before Mandi’s graduation and a couple days before I went back to Colorado for the second semester. Then it didn’t seem like I was missing anything, cause there wasn’t Sister’s house or grandparent’s house to go to. Thanksgiving 2000 I think I went with Jenna and Fred to Jenna’s family’s house in Durango. Thanksgiving 2001, I’d just been home for my sister’s wedding and my grandfather’s funeral, so I must have stayed in Colorado. As I was gently reminded, I joined other former housing staff and their families for dinner. It was Sara and Emrys and I (the orphans) joining the Caputa and Dean households for dinner. We were present for the first Caputa/Dean family function (the one before the wedding.) We ate too much, played Trivial Pursuit (boys vs. girls, girls lost), and then topped the night off by going to see Monster’s Inc. Thanksgiving 2002, I finally went home again and we went to my Aunt Barbara’s and Uncle Jimmy’s house and I learned about turducken… just on TV, we didn’t have one.
Now I am in London and will be back to square 1998 modified–a dinner with american students abroad.