My first Thanksgiving in Spain was marked indelibly with the feeling that something was “wrong” as I went about my day; it felt like there was a hole there. Sure, the weather was cold and it may have even snowed. I spent the day with friends who were becoming as close as family. Turkeys are not commonly eaten in Spain, and even turkey lunch meat is difficult to find, but I don’t think not having turkey was the reason I felt out of sorts: it was more the fact that everything was “business as usual” that threw me off. Classes still met. My experiments needed to be done. Yesterday’s business transitioned smoothly into today’s with no hard stop to demarcate this holiday. It felt surreal. No Macy’s parade to be ignored on the TV all morning, followed by the drone of football all afternoon. No sitting down with my siblings to work on 1000 piece puzzles or play pinochle till it got dark. No pumpkin pie. Still, I had expected not to have these things and all together they did not constitute the reason for my feeling that something was amiss.
But I was busy, and it took several days, perhaps weeks for me to figure out what it was that had made me feel off kilter: I had missed the yearly inner reckoning of all that I am thankful for. There is nothing like stopping work and school for an entire day to meditate on all the good things in one’s life. I have since learned not to wait for Thanksgiving, but rather to make a regular, if not daily, practice of acknowledging my good fortune.
I missed a total of 13 Thanksgiving holidays when I lived abroad, though in my later years I worked at an American school and we commemorated the day as best we could. We still had to work, but we’d bring a small slice of Thanksgiving to our world. We’d have turkey sandwiches and hang the pictures of pilgrims that the elementary school kids had colored. There were garlands made from orange, yellow, brown and red construction paper, and poems that the older students wrote on papers shaped like autumn leaves. Pumpkin pies were still not feasible, but occasionally we would have brownies, which were such a rare treat, we were all satisfied. And, as a school, we’d take a few moments in silence to be thankful for the good things in our lives.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It’s wonderful having all my children home from college and grad school, and the house noisy and busy, if only for a few days. Final exams are right around the corner, though, and they will soon go back to their studies, hopefully energized and refreshed from the break.
So today I’d like to send good wishes out to the world, thanking the universe for all the wonderful things in my life, and share a poem I wrote:
Sparseness is overtaking my garden,
as the trees cling feebly
to their last pale leaves,
and a lumpy, colorful carpet
envelopes their rooty feet.
The air nips at me with small but sharp teeth
and as I watch, the timid morning light wafts
into the wider spaces between gnarled branches.
Inside the air is rich
with smells of kindness and love:
a turkey roasting,
a pumpkin pie baking
cranberries bubbling in burgundy goodness
and my children, now grown,
laughing and catching up with each other,
their busy lives of studying and learning
growing and changing
eagerly shared in these fleeting moments
before Thanksgiving ends.
I wish you, dear reader, a wonderful Thanksgiving, even if it’s not a national holiday where you are. May the good things in your life abound!