Giving thanks abroad

I’ve been living overseas on and off since 1999.

That’s a lot of missed turkeys.

Thanksgiving abroad is a mixture of blessing and curse – if you’re willing/able/crazy enough to put on a feast for your local friends, it’s a day you’ll never forget. Thanksgiving is probably the one remaining 100% American holiday that hasn’t been exported abroad, so your presence is essential for it to happen. And you go so far out of your way to do everything “properly,” things you’d never actually consider doing at home… ordering a freshly-butchered turkey weeks in advance, cleaning an entire pumpkin for hours to bake a real pumpkin pie, making stuffing and gravy and cranberry sauce from scratch because the boxed versions aren’t available.

Per and I made a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings for eight friends in Stavanger in 2009. Naturally, as there were Norwegians involved, the festivities lasted until 3am the next morning. We had an apartment slightly larger than a shoebox, so the table stretched from the far wall to the kitchen counter. It was tight, cramped and absolutely fabulous. A real Thanksgiving.

But if you don’t have a group of friends yet or they aren’t readily available, it can be a recipe for one gigantic, disastrous case of homesick-ness.

This year is a bit unique, as you might expect since I’m typing from my lounge chair in a bikini top. There’s no big dinner planned at the Svendsen house, but I can still do my slightly-cynical list of thanks. Over the years, I’ve discovered this to be a pretty good remedy for delaying the onset of turkey-induced homesick-ness.

So here goes….

  1. I’m thankful that I haven’t accidentally killed, disfigured or injured my son yet. Well, there was that one big tumble off a bed last month… so scratch the injury part. The other parts still apply.
  2. I’m thankful that I’m typing from my lounge chair in a bikini top. Until I look down and see my post-preggers pooch-y stomach laughing at me… so scratch the bikini part. The lounge chair thanks still applies.
  3. I’m thankful that I have very special guests visiting this week and next. And that afterwards I’m traveling to visit very special friends and family during the holidays. Except that means long hours alone on the plane and the road with Per Christian, who has entered his I-hate-being-strapped-into-anything-and-everything phase… so scratch the travel part. The friend and visitor thanks still apply.
  4. I’m thankful that I have a husband who apparently still loves me despite all my CFM madness. I suspect he spends a lot of time laughing at me behind my back, but it’s probably well-deserved.
  5. I’m thankful my grandparents are still alive and will join us for Christmas this year to meet their 28th great-grandchild. No joke – that’s some serious family, folks.
  6. I’m thankful that we have a bit of money in the bank. It’s not a lot, it’s not even a medium amount. But it’s enough that we don’t have to worry about where we’re going to live or how we’re going to eat. The number of people who can’t say the same thing grows every year, so we should never take this for granted.
  7. I’m thankful that I don’t live in the US and therefore don’t have to deal with vicious Black Friday shopping crowds tomorrow. Except that I am seriously craving a bit of retail therapy (the absence of which probably accounts for #6 above), so scratch that…
  8. Most of all, I’m thankful that my son just napped long enough for me to write all this down. I feel much better. Except that he’s awake now, so scratch that too….

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and pass the turkey!

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