Thursday, November 24, 2005
The ghost of Thanksgiving past
I never used to miss Thanksgiving when I lived in France. Which I think is mainly due to the fact that there was nothing over there to remind me of the holiday. French and American culture are so different, I would usually even forget Thanksgiving existed. But here… America and England are different, but no where near as different as France and America.
England is like Adam, and America the rib taken from him to grow in to a sprawling, massive version of Eve. Both cultures certainly share the same idea of comfort food. So as I walk around my local grocery store, I still see bloated turkey carcasses taking up room in the oversized fridges, there’s even Ocean Spray cranberry sauce in the canned food aisle, and I find myself missing home. Because it’s so close, but not quite.
Last night I got a bit teary eyed talking to Stephane about Thanksgiving. How difficult it was for me to be so far from home at this time. How Thanksgiving is more sacred than Christmas in America.
But then I remembered that my family has such a sporadic, non-traditional, un-warm fuzzy feeling inducing Thanksgivings that there really was nothing to be homesick for.
Here’s a list of some of the Thanksgivings my family has had:
The memorable one with just me, my mom and my little sister. We all had the flu, sick as dogs we were; sitting at a dinning room table so big it just drew more attention to the fact that we were few and we were sad. Food was pushed around plates. I think we eventually gave up and all went to bed.
There were many Thanksgivings were we would go to the Ritz for their hotel feast buffet. This was a dressy affair, surrounded by other families who a) were wealthy enough to be able to eat there b) couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of preparing a home cooked meal and cleaning up afterward. I always enjoyed myself, but it felt hollow and very “un-American”.
Then there is the year when again, my mom, little sister and I found ourselves alone without invitations from anyone else to join them in Thanksgiving festivities. We went to see a double header at the cinema and had popcorn with a bunch of other people who were either foreigners, desperately wanted to see Tim Allen in The Santa Clause, or like us, had no place else better to go.
There is the time we flew to LA to do Thanksgiving with my Uncle. This was a lot of fun, but I still couldn’t get over having a “warm” Turkey Day - it just didn’t seem right to be playing touch football to help digest the massive amount of food my Uncle provided while wearing a short sleeved shirt.
There was also the time we went to a Mexican restaurant with my Mom and her Husbands’ funky wine friends who proceeded to drone on and on about wine the entire dinner. Once my sister and I realised that a full hour had gone by without either of us uttering a word or being spoken to, we ran off to the bathroom to dance in secret for a few minutes before quietly returning to the table. Ok. That was actually Easter, but it fit in with the others.
Anyways, my point is that I don’t have a family Thanksgiving tradition. I never grew up with a “every year for Thanksgiving we go over to Aunt Mabel’s house in Cleveland and she makes too much food, Grandpa falls asleep on the couch before even getting to the table, my mom and her sister get drunk on schnapps in the kitchen pretending to help Grandma with her gravy which no one likes because it is too lumpy but we’re not aloud to tell Grandma that” kind of a Thanksgiving.
I guess my family’s Thanksgiving tradition is simply making the most with what you got. Which is why I will be celebrating Thanksgiving on Sunday, but making a small Turkey, maybe some mashed potatoes and opening a jar of cranberry sauce. Perhaps I’ll rent something like “Home for the Holidays” and my French boyfriend and I will pick at my bird in our little studio in Nottingham in front of the telly. Works for me.