28 November 2013

License to Give Thanks (and Have Your Whine, Too)

Image credit: Copyright Bettmann
November, for Americans, is a complicated month. Thanksgiving, a holiday beloved by many and taught in primary schools as a day in which Native Americans and settlers held hands and hugged over a great feast, is plagued by historical inaccuracies and, at worst, atrocities.

We are told to be grateful for what we have and to want not, yet the biggest shopping day of the year immediately follows, in which people reliably turn into monsters, and on each other, in pursuit of The Lowest Price. Seriously, everyone. Stay at home tomorrow and spend time with someone, even if that someone is your cat, or yourself. And if you're feeling unexplainably aggressive and consumeristic, punch a pillow and do some online shopping. And don't feel guilty about it. (But maybe keep the punching part to yourself.)

Being an expat has meant giving up my traditional interpretation of most (American) holidays, or at least bending them into a different shape. This will be my third Thanksgiving abroad, and they have ranged from sharing a table with a roomful of welcoming American friends who Get It, preparing a full spread for a miscellany of nationalities (Dutch, Pakistani, Dutch-Pakistani, and Russian), and, now, well, nothing. It just feels cheap to try to cook anything less than a full feast, so I'm not even trying. At the haggard state I'm in, I know better than to be using fire or knives.

I could look at today this way: I've been alone with two coughing kids for almost three weeks, can count the number of showers I've had in that time on one hand, am barely recovered from a stomach bug from the place people in hell are sent when they get kicked out, have been woken up every other morning at a time which no one should be awake, ever, and will be eating cereal tonight accompanied by no one over the age of three.

Or, I could be grateful that this morning was a metamorphosis from a bleary-eyed struggle to pull on boots and coats into a delightful clump of hours with the kids at the best place in town for croissants, a quiet stroll along the canals, a few wild rides down the buurt's biggest slide, enough time in bed during the kids' (yes, multiple!) nap to write this post, and no stressful culinary marathon ahead of me. Even better, I'll wake up in the morning to my favorite jet-lagged guy walking in through the door.

Easy. I'll go for the second one. Happy Thanksgiving, people.


p.s. For the history behind the top photo, head over to this great piece from Huff Post.