On quiet Saturday afternoons after a busy week your thoughts can wander away from work and schedules and reflect on some of the more important things like… making a personal blog post.
I can’t believe it’s almost Thanksgiving and I must admit this is one of my favourite times of year. When we were young, my brother, sister and I would rake the leaves that fell from the oak tree across the street from our Oma’s house. We’d make one huge pile then proceed to ride my brother’s bmx straight through it. We’d rake the leaves again, grab the bike, and the fun would continue for hours. Heading back into the house we’d see the steamy windows and know that we’d be greeted by the warm smell of roasting turkey as soon as we walked in the door. Our cheeks would turn bright red and after being out in the crisp autmun air for hours it felt like your nose would thaw right off your face.
If dinner wasn’t ready, we’d head downstairs, our bellies rumbling, and put on some records. Yes, records. Either that or we’d play this game with toy cars that was sort of like shuffle board meets bocce ball and it required us to roll up the rug in the living room so we could slide them across the smooth floor underneath. Eventually our game was discovered and we got in trouble for rolling up the carpet, apparently rolling is bad for carpets.
Our Thanksgiving dinner was probably a lot different than others. We didn’t have yams (or is that sweet potatoes) and Oma would always make her famous coleslaw. Then there was the cauliflower smothered in secret sauce. Rumour has it that its recipe is scripted in an ancient language and locked away from prying, hungry eyes. Actually, it’s just something Oma throws together off the top of her head, and every time it’s delicious.
I haven’t always made it home for Thanksgiving, in 2002 I was in Waltham, MA at an extended stay hotel. The room had a kitchenette with two elements that didn’t work and a saucepan caked in grease, most likely from a previous guest. I walked downstairs to the lobby, which ironically enough always smelled like oven cleaner, and checked out the frozen foods selection they graciously kept in a mini-store up front. I had to make the tough choice between a bean burrito and a pot pie.
I opted for the pot pie, and shuffled back upstairs in my slippers to call home. I missed everyone so much and all of these memories made my eyes well up and my tummy rumble. Oma came on the phone, and God bless her, she proceeded to described every bit of food she prepared that day, and how good it was going to taste. Suddenly my from-frozen dinner didn’t seem so satisfying.
That’s what’s pretty great about my family, even though you’re thousands of miles away, they speak to you with so much enthusiasm and love that you feel as though they’re only seconds away. That any minute they’re going to come busting through the door (in a loving way, not a freaky Kool-Aid man way…) and mom will cover you in hugs like nothing has changed.
At that time my niece was 2 and my nephew was only 6 months old. I think that was the toughest part. I could handle being alone in a hotel, which was one of many in the area, surrounded by interstate and strip malls. I could handle being away for the next year without a familiar face to look at for months on end. But the one thing that got me was birthdays and holidays. My mom and sister made sure to send me little gifts like a Valentine’s Day card and my niece sent along a home-crafted Easter card, but I wished I could be there. Nothing compares to that feeling of bouncing up the back steps of my Oma’s house, making smoke with your breath, and entering the house knowing that you’re going to be met with hugs, smiles and little voices announcing your arrival to the rest of the house.
This year, I feel luckier than ever to be able to head home on that 40 minute Skytrain ride for Thanksgiving next Sunday. I am even more pleased that John and I will get to experience this same feeling with his family, for their Thanksgiving. I’ll have a whole other experience, with an entirely different group of people, in a place that’s far away. However I have a feeling, and am pretty certain, that the sense of homecoming, good food and warm hearts will still be there. And for this, I can’t wait.