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thanksgiving: the best holiday in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD.

December 13, 2011

            In 2009 I was foolishly head-over-heels in “like” with my boyfriend. So seriously that I opted to spend my “all-time most favorite holiday ever” with his family instead of mine. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving I was thrilled as I packed my things and thought about the adventure I was about to have. Even by Wednesday I was only partially regretting my decision as we ran errands in the cold of Connecticut for unfamiliar foods and I was introduced to an alien family in a house that was not my own. But when I awoke Thanksgiving morning to find that the mother of the house had stuffed Tom Turkey with the dressing I had so painstakingly made vegetarian, I was ready to throw change and adventure out the window and seek out a one-way plane ticket back to Dulles that would have me home for our 3:00 meal. Talk about a lesson learned: you don’t mess with family days and you definitely don’t mess with tradition.
            This year, in Spain, I admittedly had my concerns. Living abroad in a country that not only doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but also doesn’t even know what it is? All the while being a vegetarian who doesn’t even celebrate it “properly”?

“Good grief,” I thought. “I’m totally eff-bombing screwed.” [Yes, I actually think things like “eff-bombing”.]

But as we went around the table last Thursday*, the group of American, Canadian and European auxiliares that I have come to call my friends here, sharing what we were thankful for, I realized that despite the absence of my own family and fireplace, a bottomless mimosa, the Macy’s Day Parade and American football, somehow I still felt right at home.

            Like so many other auxiliares, I came to Spain two months ago completely alone: without friends, without family, without language, without culture. My mom didn’t even let me bring along a stuffed elephant pillow because she said I would look like a child. [Pffft. Thanks Ma!] Having had a similar experience this summer, I was mostly numb to culture shock that many experienced upon arrival. However, recognizing the sentimental girl in me, I braced myself for a bout of homesickness come the cold weather and holiday season.

            Fortunately, after last Friday, I’ve realized that my future “non-traditional” holiday experiences don’t always have to match my 2009 mistake. On Friday, as I sat around looking at all of my new friends, I realized that even after a short period, Murcia had already become my home, and that all of these people who I sat sharing dinner with were an integral part of my life here. They were the only ones in the world who could relate to my recent experience. They, who had shared in my excitement, my happiness, my loneliness and my frustrations over the past two months; they, more than any friends or family back home, truly understood how I was feeling and just how grateful I was to have people to share Thanksgiving with.

            And at some point it dawned on me that they felt the same way. [Oh gosh warm fuzzy holiday cheer…here we go!] That this small group of individuals who I’ve come to rely on for so much in my everyday life—comfort, compassion, friendship, support and occasionally llaollao or vegetables from the market, things that my friends and family cannot contribute to on a daily scale from thousands of miles away—relied on me for the same things. That they have come to trust me as I trust them and that in some brilliant way the circumstances of our lives in Spain have also allowed us to develop a certain reliance and dependence on one another much as my own family would back home.

            So as the holiday season ploughs forward and more advent calendar chocolates are consumed, I raise my metaphorical glass in a toast to family, in whatever form you may find them.

*Late post, I KNOW.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jim Hagen permalink
    December 14, 2011 3:17 pm

    Printed your post to take to your grandmother. Am sure she will enjoy.
    Jim and Judy

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