so after my parents divorced, we had a general sense of relief that we were no longer required to show up as an ensemble for the annual parade of crazy.
but then my mom got a job that required her presence -and ours- on thanksgiving.
it was kind of a cool job. the university used to partner with IBM to bring guys (always guys, somehow) here to get a one year accelerated master's degree in electrical engineering, and they didn't just bring the guys. they brought their whole families to live here for the year.
only about a third of those families were from the US, the rest coming largely from france and germany, with a smattering of japanese and the occasional lithuanian.
and the program was kind of geniusly set up to include support systems for the families, because it can be hard to be plopped down in a foreign country for a year and have to rent a house and do the shoppings and get the kids to school and one of the parents is ALL THE TIME STUDYING.
so my mom's job was coordinating of the living parts of the program. she ran the weekly coffee/support group and the social gatherings and helped make connections and paperworks and all that.
and part of the experience was the good old fashioned american thanksgiving.
it was held at a local retreat center with an dining area and industrial kitchen. the americans would argue over which kind of stuffing / cornbread / pie was the best and how to properly prepare side dishes and we would assure our european and asian friends that these arguments are, in fact, part of a traditional american thanksgiving, especially when regional differences come into play.
it was a potluck thanksgiving. everybody brought things. american families brought all of the traditional regional dishes. the german women (some stereotypes exist for a reason) can loaded up with all kinds of german breads and pastries and bustled about industriously. the french women provided much of the soup and much of the wine and stood around smoking and criticizing the kinds of wines available in the US. the japanese women typically had the least command of english and the least understanding of european culture, and were most likely to bring dishes that looked most obviously japanese, for which they were apologetic. they seemed to feel the least comfortable and the least like they fit in, but i loved them and i loved their delicious japanese thanksgiving potluck foods.
it was a splendid way to have thanksgiving, and a thing i would not trade for, but when the program ended and we no longer had to go anywhere for thanksgiving, my family largely stepped back to staying at home, not answering the phone, and pretty much doing nothing.
my mom started going to the cape. i took up thanksgiving camping.
when people ask me if my family gets together for thanksgiving and i say no, they typically express some kind of regret that my family is not close.
well, no. we get together for birthday celebrations in late october, mid november, and early december, plus christmas. we just don't do a big thanksgiving usually. we're ok with that.