I wake up to the sound of a jackhammer pounding away at the neighboring construction site. I almost let out an audible grumble to express my irritation, but I become distracted by the sound of the coffee pot gurgling as the last few drops of joe collect in the pot. My first sip instantly perks me up, but that’s not the addiction talking, it’s the realization that Thanksgiving is upon us. A time to eat, relax, and enjoy the company of those around you.
The anticipation of this year’s great feast immediately brought me back to this time almost exactly a year ago. I was living in Spain and about to spend my very first Thanksgiving away from home. At the time, the whole idea felt incredibly wrong. I was alone in a place that didn’t share my culture or heritage during an important holiday that I always spent with family and loved ones.
My phone rings and instantly snaps me back to reality. It’s my mom calling, as she usually does every few days to catch up on life. We begin talking about our respective plans for the holiday, as once again, we won’t be spending it together. After I explain that I’ll be visiting with my boyfriend’s family this Thursday she tells me how much she misses me and that although she wishes I was home, she’s happy I’ll be surrounded by a big, loving group of people this year.
“I feel happy knowing you’re in good hands,” she says.
I thought of the group of people I shared Thanksgiving with last year and wondered what they were up to now. More than likely, most of them were not thinking about how they would celebrate Thanksgiving in a few days. Last year I shared the holiday with a group of complete strangers- most of us had met only hours before we sat down to a table full of food.
Last year’s scene was, on all accounts, drastically different from what I was used to. Not a single person in the room was related, pumpkin pie was nowhere to be found, and to top it off we were all speaking Spanish instead of my native and familiar English.
As the hours passed and the wine flowed, a wave of realization suddenly washed over me. It took 22 years and crossing an ocean until I felt like I truly understood some of the ideals this holiday was founded on; cultural exchange and sharing. It didn’t matter that we were strangers and on the surface had very little in common. The essence of sharing brought us together. We shared our cultures and language, shared laughs, memories, and most appropriately, shared food.
As I hang up the phone with my mom, I find myself thinking about her last statement. I trust the sincerity in her voice and believe she really is at peace with our apparent trend in long distance holidays. I smile fondly as I write down the ingredients for a new recipe to try this year- one that was shared with me by a stranger. I realize there may be a new theme emerging when it comes to holidays.