Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An American Thanksgiving in Oxford, and other celebrations of makeshift families

Balanced in my hands, I held a steaming hot turkey fresh from the oven.  Somehow -- some way -- I found myself bounding down the street from one flat to the next.  English passersby questioned my antics and I yelled to the onlooking strangers, "It's American Thanksgiving!"

The warmth and celebrations reminiscent of home greeted me at the door as my friends relieved me of turkey-balancing duties.  We all headed upstairs where there was a flurry of activity:  college students frantically trying to piece together what-they-knew-or-didn't-know about how to prepare this important holiday meal.

Try as we did, our English friends didn't make it out to our festivities -- save one, whose name I don't remember.  But in the midst of all this hubbub and new friendships, I felt as though among family.  True family.  Family I barely knew, but family who understood the importance of this time of year.  Family that I've since lost touch with over the years, but who have remained fervent kindred spirits of mine.

One of the most treasured memories is that of my friend Ben, who tragically passed away only a couple years after this occasion.  He was on-the-phone and off-the-phone consistently with his mother back in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania -- asking for help and tips and making sure we were doing everything right.  It was Ben -- above the rest of us, coming from a family of ten -- who made the event especially sacred, ensuring that our Thanksgiving in Oxford was nothing short of magical.

And it was.

Flash forward three years, and I again find myself amongst makeshift family for this holiday.  This time the family was one which had been forged by years of carefully curated relationships that still hold fast today.  Three girls traveled the lengths to Connecticut to visit our best friend so that he would not be alone for the holidays.  Having just moved there, many household staples were missing -- like can openers, silverware, and the like -- and we found ourselves scrambling out to the store on Thanksgiving Day to see if we could find basic necessities.  Another flurry of activity and silliness marked this day, as well as an understanding that we were no longer students but had graduated into adulthood -- with apartments and jobs and lives separate from our parents.  Thanksgiving was a time to show that we were growing up with -- but not apart from -- one another.

This Thanksgiving, I will be celebrating in the traditional way -- the combining of my husband's family and my own into one big, festive celebration.  Yes, this time I am with blood relatives -- but during this week, I do not forget the many friendships I have formed into makeshift families.  And however you are celebrating or not-celebrating on this day, my thoughts are with you -- my love goes out to you -- and I wish you the most blessed of times.

(Can you tell I love this holiday?)

Happy Thanksgiving!

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