Thursday, November 22, 2007

American Thanksgiving

Today is American Thanksgiving, and in the spirit of the day, I must give thanks. It takes a few moments to figure out how to do this properly.

I have been in this country only a few times for Thanksgiving: once was a disastrous over-regimented dinner. The other time was spent thesis-writing – but punctuated with a brief visit from my friend Julie, who brought me an entire pecan pie. That was one of the most touching and generous gestures I have received, but serves as a reminder of how important this day is.

America takes this day more seriously than Canada, and that’s not a bad thing. Sitting down for a shared meal with family and friends is a rare occasion these days, with my generation's tendency to move and scatter. Unlike weddings, funerals and most other holidays, there is little religious conviction involved with Thanksgiving (though the point was fiercely debated over appetizers), and, typically, less drama than other gatherings.

I spent this morning getting the fixings for an apple-pear pie (and a damn good pie, if I do say so myself). Because of my last-minute change of plans, my housemate kindly invited me to a Thanksgiving celebration – a group of families and friends that gathered in the Canyon. This dinner was the epitome of everything good about this country and this holiday: two turkeys (plus ham and a stew), 14+ friendly people, a game of Trivial Pursuit, several alcoholic beverages and some good music. All with a spectacular view of snow covered trees, a hazy day in the Denver area, and a couple of deer outside the window munching on the lawn.

It was the welcome I received today that I give thanks for: people who didn’t know me who were smiling and excited to say hello, strangers giving me mimosas and an inherent sense of belonging for no reason. In these moments I have to pause and reflect, I realize I am most thankful for the welcome I received in this country – no concern about where I’m from, who I represent or what I think. Just a genuine invitation to share a meal and tell a few stories. And a perfect reminder of why I choose to live in this country despite certain political and social issues with the way it works.

So I thank my host, Brian. A lovely, open and honest individual who cooks a mean turkey - which reminds me why I’m not always vegetarian. And who reinstores my faith in human nature for having such a large dining table. And for liking Amy Winehouse.

I thank Cornelius – the guy who mans the coffee bar at Wild Oats on Arapahoe and Broadway. He always makes me laugh in the mornings (not always easy). And he goes out of his way to make my morning tea from the extra-hot water behind the bar.

I thank my officemate, Mike. He always seems happy to see me in the morning, and that is a wonderful thing. Who is happy to share a small space with someone else every day? Not many individuals. Particularly not individuals who give me bike-fixing and program-solving advice.

I thank my past and present advisors, Jose and Ron. They always make me think, and that can only be a good thing.

I thank my Berkeley friends. They email me – almost daily I receive a note from someone out West (or out East, as the case may be). It makes me think of great baseball games, salsa dancing and evenings out at Cesar’s. Beers and pizza over Alias or Thursday Night Action Movie. Good, solid, supportive hugs at the end of a rough day. Handing me a glass of red wine on a really bad day, no questions asked.

I thank my family for unambiguous affection. A genuine – if on occasion slightly over-enthusiastic – interest in my non-existent love-life. A concern that I have enough pretty cocktail dresses and can feed myself more than mac and cheese. And a desire to see me at Christmas, coupled with a desire to eat anything I cook, no matter how odd.

I don’t think I can ever return all these beautiful moments and favours - and I don't think that's the point of them. But suffice it to say that today has reminded me to be thankful for where I am and whomever I have met over the last 29 years. I raise a slice of well-cooked turkey and a glass of good Pinot Noir, and say… Happy Thanksgiving!

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