November 23, 2007
'Tis the night before Thanksgiving and 13-year-old Jason springs on me the claim that the school is giving American students the day off for the holiday, and that "all" the American kids won't be in school tomorrow. Since we live in England, Thanksgiving is typically just a regular workday and schoolday.
I stare at him blankly, formulating various answers in my head. I ask him what he thinks I am going to reply to him. He says he doesn't know. Suffice to say I am not having any of this, but I am willing to go so far as to email some other American parents to check on this rumor, which the school administration has said nothing about. I tell Jason in the meantime that he is definitely going to school tomorrow. I tell him if Thanksgiving is so important to him, he should write a list of 100 things he is thankful for. He agrees this is a great idea and a good thing to do while he is staying home.
Later in the evening and the next morning I hear back from various 8th grade parents. Only one is keeping her child home, but she has organized this well in advance and notified the principal and all the relevant teachers. She has gotten the homework in advance, and received permission for an excused absence because this holiday is very important to their family. All the other parents, like us, are sending their good old American kids to school with all the other nationalities, because this is not a British holiday and the UK is where we live at the moment.
* * *
At 6:20am on Thanksgiving morning, Emily wakes me up saying her stomach hurts. I blearily run through a few actions she might take, including getting a glass of water. She returns in a few minutes with one, and I properly wake up, don my robe, and join her in the hallway. Soon thereafter, she starts vomiting. Thankfully (let's be thankful, after all, today of all days), she hits the toilet target every one of the four episodes for the next 2 hours. I install the poor girl on towels and a pillow outside the bathroom, on the hallway rug. I rub her back and she says this helps. I contemplate how Jason will feel about Emily staying home today while he goes to school on Thanksgiving. It turns out he would rather be violently ill. Or so he thinks, from afar.
* * *
By 9am, Emily wakes up from her hallway nap feeling much better. Jason later asks why I couldn't have taken her into school at noon in this case. I tell him schools don't want vomiting people in their classrooms. Or recently vomity people.
I work on some Christmas gifts. This is a vaguely Thanksgivingy thing to do, isn't it? It's the very next holiday.
In the evening, for our Thanksgiving dinner (which we have by now forgotten is so), we absent-mindedly eat gammon with a maple syrup glaze (gammon is English for ham), with homemade macaroni and cheese (cheddar, gruyère and parmesan) and green peas, while we rewatch the most exciting scenes from The Matrix. I know you are wondering, so I'll just mention that Gruyère without an S at the end refers to the cheese or the district in Switzerland where it is made, whilst Gruyères WITH the S refers to the town where the cheese is made (the capital of the district). Did you know that, KFB? Or maybe, au contraire, you are wondering which clips are our favorites from the Matrix. Ok, I'll divulge that as well, but skip it if you're not an action fan: Trinity in a Jam/Impossible Pursuit, the Lobby Shooting Spree of course, Dodge This/Gotcha/Rooftop Rescue, and Final Connections.
Now this is just the kids and me sitting on stools at the kitchen counter, because David, extra tired from a demanding day of presentations and Q&A at another company, has slept past his train stop for the very first time. Oops. Fortunately he wakes up at the next one and manages to get off and take another train back within about five minutes. Phew.
By the time David walks in, we've put away the laptop viewing screen and we chat with him as he eats a few bites. Then David and I say goodnight to the kids and head off to our regular mid-week small group meeting with a few friends from church. We are the only non-Brits. They ask us whether this isn't Thanksgiving Day for us, and we sort of shrug. They apologize, needlessly.
* * *
The day after Thanksgiving, while America shops, our kids go to school again, this time both of them. But David works from home, because at 11:15am we drive together to the school, where David speaks to Jason's Technology class about his job. Very cool; I am so proud. I am thrilled that he is so smart, that he is so brave as to go and talk to a group of 14 and 15 year olds he doesn't know. That he knows a lot of stuff they would be interested in. And that he would take the time to show tangible love for his son in this way. The class pays attention, asks intelligent questions, and is very happy that David managed to bring along some pretty company-branded pens to give out.
After this, David and I get a rare meal out together, at a restaurant on the way home. It is an Italian place that I really like, but Emily doesn't, so we don't go often. David enjoys sea breem with lemon and courgettes, roasted potatoes and a bowl of mixed bright green vegetables (snow peas, green beans, peas, and broccoli, all swimming in garlicky butter). I feast on bruschetta with red pepper, courgette, cherry tomatoes and goat cheese, and a side of "asparagi grigliati" with poached egg.
Dropping off David at home to work some more, I head to Longacres Garden Centre to pick up two fir wreaths: one for the front door, and one for the Advent candle ring on our living room table. While I am there, I find they are now selling gourmet and/or organic foods of interesting local varieties. I tuck a bag of heart-shaped, red-and-white pasta into a nook at the front of my trolley. But as I unload the wreaths into the car, I find I never put the pasta on the conveyor belt, and walked out without anyone (including myself) noticing I had the bag. I sigh and take it back inside. The cashier tells me if I want it I have to queue again. I say never mind and surrender the cute beet-colored hearts. Another time.
After picking up the kids at school, the three of us pull into the car wash since our Toyota is filthy. It's the kind where you drive the car in and stay inside while the bubbles cloud the windows and you giggle together. Only this time, it sprays some scented water over the car, rolls backwards, and stops. There are metal doors enclosing the space, to avoid excess noise for neighbouring homes. We are stuck and nothing is happening. The sign outside our window tells us to stay in the car and honk the horn in this unlikely event that we are experiencing. We try this for nine minutes, while unsuccessfully checking the receipt for a phone number and calling David to ask him to Google the gas station to find some contact info. Apparently Google doesn't know about this little place that sells warm chocolate croissants and Kindereggs along with the petrol and car washes. Jason is begging to be the hero and get out of the car and use the emergency exit. After making sure all three of us have gotten any and all pent-up horn-honking out of our system in this sound-proof metal box, I finally let Jason go. Within a minute he is back with an employee. Apparently the power to the car wash is out, but he knows how to open the door in front of us to let us out. We get a replacement car wash code for another day, and the phone number of the gas station for future use, and drive home rather non-plussed. Jason gets a paid job rinsing off the car with the garden hose in his wellington boots. He comes in with cold, red hands (it's three degrees C out = 37F), and we start our two-day weekend of relaxation.
* * *
I hope you had a more traditional Thanksgiving! I am thankful most of all to be the wife of my husband and the mother of my children, the daughter of my parents and the daughter-in-law of my mother-in-law. I am deeply blessed in ways beyond measure.
November 23, 2007 | Permalink
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So sorry you had such a weird Thanksgiving. I am thankful for you! Hugs to you all and hopes for a happier after-Thanksgiving-but-before-Advent-weekend :-)
Posted by: Julie | Nov 23, 2007 10:22:21 PM
We had a weird Thanksgiving too. (Or the day after, since Friday happened to be Japan's "thankful for workers" day.) I promised to let the kids put up the Christmas tree and we found that the big plastic storage box of ornaments had a crack in it and, since we store it on the balcony, some typhoon had let water in, and everything was moldy and gross! All the ornaments, most with precious memories attached, were lost. The kids gamely helped clean up the mess and we went shopping at Costco (yes, we have them in Japan now) to get at least some ball ornaments. While we were there, I picked up a whole roasted chicken and an apple pie, and so we were able to have a real Thanksgiving dinner, just with chicken, instead of turkey. In the meantime, I realized that most of those precious memories center around my 3 precious children, who I still have here with me, and who were such a great support to me. We learned something close to the lesson in "The Grinch" on Thanksgiving this year! Sorry I don't have my own blog, so I just used up the comment space on yours!
Posted by: Andrea | Nov 24, 2007 3:30:24 PM
Hehe, that's what the comment space is for Andrea: to use up the space on other people's blogs! ;)
That is sure a wild, weird, interesting Thanksgiving Katherine. Thanks for sharing it. I think the thing that struck me the most is that honesty must be so much more common there in England than it is here as it didn't even surprise the grocer that you brought back an item you had forgotten to pay for. Not even so much as a "thanks for being honest;" just a "get back in line," eh? Ah well, then I'll say it: thanks for your honesty.
We had a nice Thanksgiving at some friends that Birgit called to invite to our place who replied that they were already having some people over and we were welcome to come too. This was our first Thanksgiving away from home since before Kira was born, and it was a lot of fun! We had an interesting mix of foods including the standard turkey and ham as well as steamed mussels (also from Costco Andrea ;) that was a Thanksgiving first. Yum. Kira said she was very happy as she doesn't like Turkey.
Well, now that I've taken up so much more comment space than even Andrea I will cheat and copy my comments over to my own blog. Thanks again for sharing Katherine.
Posted by: randall | Nov 24, 2007 4:47:30 PM
Julie - Thanks for the hugs.
Andrea - I love long comments! Comment away to your heart's delight, as often as you like. That's how I got started blogging - I wrote so many long comments on Julie's blog that I saw the light and started my own ;-) I am so sorry about your ornaments :-( But glad your kids were so good about it all and you are savoring the real treasure.
Randall - thanks for the encouragement in honesty. I was talking to myself about it as I held the bag in my hand...how annoying, I thought to myself. The easiest thing physically would be to take it home, since I was standing at my car. But that would be stealing, since I didn't buy it. There was no way around taking it back, even though it was only a small bag of pasta, and even though I really did want to bring it home to boil up for my daughter who appreciates such sweet and creative things. But you're right, they didn't show any appreciation for my bringing it back, that I can recall. But then why should they? I'm only making right what I did wrong in the first place. "Of course" you bring it back. Anything else would be wrong. Anyway, glad I inspired you to post yourself.
Posted by: Katherine | Nov 24, 2007 9:52:13 PM