This year was the third year in a row that I spent Thanksgiving away from home. With work posing scheduling conflicts and my family living so far away that I have to buy an expensive plane ticket, it was too difficult to make the trip. So once again, I ventured to Crystal Lake, Illinois to spend the holiday with my boyfriend's family. I'm not complaining; in fact, it's developing into a nice tradition--that will probably continue as long as things keep progressing with my relationship. But there is still a part of me that aches to be home for Thanksgiving. I miss my mom preparing the turkey, mixing the potatoes and baking pumpkin pie. Sure, I can see that being done anywhere, but it isn't my mom, it isn't my kitchen, it isn't my family. I miss the conversations we have around the dinner table after the plates have been whipped clean of their delicious contents. I miss the way my dog begs for any remaining scraps. I miss how I'm usually the only one--besides my grandpa--who dips into the warm pie, because I always make room for dessert. I've made some incredible memories at home, and I know I'll make many more in the future here in Chicago. And even though I missed home this holiday, my mind kept wandering back to the first Thanksgiving I ever spent away from home back in 2006.
It was during my semester studying abroad in Italy. My friend, Sari, and I decided to fly up to England to visit our friend Emily who was living in London for the semester. We figured since we couldn't be with our families, we might as well surround ourselves with friends. Now, the British do not acknowledge Thanksgiving, so locating all the traditional fixings was a little difficult. We couldn't just walk into a store like in the states and have a Thanksgiving display there with everything we needed. It took a couple trips, some scrounging and some substituting, but we eventually located a turkey, cranberries, potatoes, green beans, stuffing ingredients and, of course, pumpkin pie. The preparations started early, with Emily's roommates clearing the kitchen and making the pre-dinner snacks, our friend Harris taking over turkey duty, and the rest of us selecting various dishes to work on. I peeled the potatoes, while Sari made the stuffing and Emily made the gravy and cranberry sauce. After a long afternoon in the kitchen performing the work our parents usually handle, we pulled the turkey out of the oven, placed all the food in serving plates and laid it all out on the table. Paired with a couple bottles of wine and some fresh bread purchased from the baker down the street, our British Thanksgiving looked pretty impressive. After loading our plates, passing food between all of us, we took a moment to reflect on our hard work and the incredible feast we were about to enjoy. I said a silent prayer, thanking God for giving me the chance to be with friends and have a lovely meal. Then we raised our glasses to our country's holiday and then dug in.
After dinner, as we all unbuttoned our pants just a little, Emily grabbed a candle from her room and lit it. The tradition is, she said, that you pass the candle around the room, and everyone says what they are thankful for this year. Some people's were simple, some humorous, others long-winded, but what everyone said they were thankful for was being in great company. Because that is what Thanksgiving is really all about; being around people you care about and who care about you. So even if you were far away from home this Thanksgiving, I hope you were surrounded by a good group of people.