In my childhood, Thanksgiving Day dinner meant company. Grandma and Grandpa Neff came downstairs from their apartment on the second floor of our farmhouse. Dad would go to Farnham to bring Grandma and Grandpa Bryce to the farm.
Aunt Seb, Uncle Gerald, Keith, Norma, and baby Louise came. My uncle would go straight through the kitchen down the stairs to find the large crock in the dirt cellar that held my mother’s doughnuts. Coming up with one in each hand he’d give Mom a hug.
While Mom and Aunt Seb chatted and cooked dinner, Uncle Gerald and my father would take guns to wander through the woods hunting deer. They never shot any. I was never sure Dad would have killed a deer if it came and stood in front of him. We kids got out all my toys and spread them about. A fat stuffed rooster would be on the menu with extra stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, cabbage salad, beet pickles, cinnamon apples, Aunt Seb’s date bread and rolls. For dessert Mom would have baked mincemeat and pumpkin pies.
Living in Philadelphia the first year of marriage, we contacted the University of Penn to find one or two foreign students who would be left alone for the holiday. We invited a young university couple from India to have dinner with us. I served the usual menu, but most everything was new to them. I’m not sure they enjoyed it. But that Thanksgiving dinner was an adventure for them and us.
Many years later, it was our turn to have Thanksgiving in a different culture. Our first year in Warsaw, it felt important to celebrate our American holiday. We invited a single mom and her daughter from the American Embassy to dinner. It was a pleasant day with them. However, the day felt strange. No one around us understood what we celebrated. For the next three years we lived in Warsaw, we spent the day enjoying Poland, instead of trying to recreate our culture in a different one.
My husband and I spent one more Thanksgiving out of the country. In 2003 we were in Ahuas, Honduras, at a medical facility where I taught missionary children. One doctor was American. His wife, a Honduran doctor, did her best to create a Thanksgiving dinner for her husband and us during a busy day seeing and caring for patients. Again it felt a little of place.
This Thanksgiving will be with my family. My son will stuff and roast the turkey and bring a grape pie. My daughter-in-law will make a cranberry and pomagrante relish and bring a red wine. My daughter will make salad and bring white wine. Her wife will provide appetizers. And I will cook potatoes, make baked apples, and an apple pie. It will be a celebration midst a country of celebrants.