Thankful for Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 27, 2008

As America celebrates Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for Thanksgiving. I’ve always enjoyed the holiday because it brings families and friends together, and oftentimes even strangers are welcomed and made to feel as though they belong.

For nine years I lived in Dallas, Texas and it became a custom that I spent Thanksgivings, Christmas Eve, and Christmas with the Perez and Tristan families. Since my parents and sisters were back in Michigan and my grandfather would fly off to spend the holiday with my Aunt DeeAnn and her family and he was often gone over several Christmases as well, I enjoyed spending these times with the Perez and Tristan families. Both families made me feel very welcome. I worked with Raul and Francisco (Francis for short) and we attended the University of North Texas together and we became friends, while Francisco and Raul had been friends since kindergarten. I had always thought that it was really great how both families had welcomed me.

The Tristan family had a tradition that that Mrs. Tristan and daughters would make pounds and pounds of tamales and I really enjoyed them (every now and again when I’m in a Mexican restaurant I’ll look to see if they have tamales and if think about ordering some and think of the homemade tamales of the Tristan family). They also had a big get together on Christmas Eve. Francisco has a few brothers and a couple of sisters and add in his nieces and nephews and it was often a pretty large get together. Francis has been a very good friend over the years and we asked him to be the godfather of our oldest daughter, he and his wife flew out to Germany to be at the baptism and I have so many great memories of all the years that I have know him and his family.

I often tie those three holidays together and think of them as one, but I did start writing about Thanksgiving (didn’t I?) Thanksgivings I usually spent with the Perez family during my Dallas years. Raul was the middle son and had one sister and a niece and a nephew. There was usually a nice turkey and many of the Thanksgiving dishes that many of us know and love. During those years I saw little Jena her brother Marty grow. Before I left Dallas, I saw both of Raul’s brothers get married and I even flew back to Dallas after moving away to be at his sister’s wedding.

Since moving to Germany seven years ago, it has been more of a challenge to celebrate Thanksgiving. First of all, the day that the American Thanksgiving is celebrated is not a national holiday in Germany, so to have the day off requires making arrangements to take the day off (which I have done several times, but it didn’t work out this year). You don’t usually find turkeys over here like you do in the U.S., so one time a friend of ours was able to arrange that we got a turkey from some Americans they knew that had access to a PX. One year we celebrated with another American from Michigan and her then boyfriend (now husband). Another year we went to visit some friends that were living in the U.K. at the time. This was even more memorable because it was my first Thanksgiving outside of the U.S. and we drove through the tunnel between Calais and Dover, commonly referred to as “the Chunnel” since it goes under the English Channel. My mother had passed away that September and dad had flown over to see us so it was all that more memorable.

I’ve always enjoyed Thanksgiving. I’ve also enjoyed how it brings people together and that while you do tend to think about things that you’re thankful for, you don’t need to be of any particular Christian denomination, so the holidays tends to unite people and drive them apart. So I hope that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and maybe remember some of your more memorable ones.

Photo credit: "Thanksgiving Turkey, white background" courtesy of davidlat

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