Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving

October 11, 2010 in North America, Travelogue, United States


Jessie-Rose & I hanging her handprint leaf on the thankful tree... she's thankful for "Pink."

It’s strange to split your life between countries and celebrate holidays when no one else does. It’s been this way my entire life. We’ve always celebrated two Thanksgivings, American and Canadian, about a month apart on the calendar, regardless of what country we found ourselves living in.


I’ve been in the states 18 years now, exactly half my life. For years, Columbus Day, Canadian Thanksgiving, was just a little bit lonely for me. I’d bake a chicken, make a pumpkin pie, and know I was missing the biggest food day of the year in my mother’s kitchen on the island.


Several years ago, all that changed. A group of our friends decided to celebrate with me, and since then, both Canada Day (July 1) and Canadian Thanksgiving have been very festive events.


This year I shopped in Massachusetts and we schlepped the feast north.  What should have been a 3 hour drive, took six. It was dark when we pulled into the Wood Family Farm in Franklin, NH.  I figured at least a few of the seven kids would be sleeping. Not hardly. We started counting when we turned into their driveway.  The car was not even in park and we hadn’t reached the number five before their front door exploded and boys started shrieking down the hill, hanging off the van. We are blessed with a ridiculous number of wonderful friends, but the welcome we receive from the Wood children is unmatched in enthusiasm on any continent


The cooking started early on Saturday morning: four pumpkin pies went in first, followed by two twenty pound turkeys, two kinds of stuffing, twelve pounds of mashed sweet potatoes, two pans of carrot casserole, in honor of my mom’s late friend, Kathy, two huge bowls of salad, two kinds of cranberry sauce, two gallons of cran-raspberry punch and two pans of green bean casserole, that were hand delivered by the Schenk family.


Jessie, Jenny & I chopping sweet potatoes

It was a surprisingly relaxed morning.  Jessie, 3, “helped” me chop the potatoes. Lois made the rice stuffing and the gravy.  I cannot be trusted to make gravy. We sipped tea, and visited in the quiet kitchen while we worked.  The children were nowhere to be seen, out working up their appetites in the forest.


The guests arrived in a steady stream, 27 of us altogether, 17 kids 14 and under; just the very tip of the iceberg of our dear friends in the area, the absolute maximum number we could seat at the long table the men constructed in the kitchen and living room.


Nothing is every quiet at this stage of life and Thanksgiving dinner was no exception.  While Mr. Wood gave a benediction and only the toddlers were left squawking, I sneaked a peek the length of the table and smiled.

How blessed am I, 18 years into my American existence, to have this many friends, who for one day will choose to honor my heritage and band together, bringing food and flowers, purchasing Canadian beer they’d never drink on purpose, and celebrate a holiday that only matters to me?


The afternoon was filled with dishes (that the men washed) knitting, laps full of little people and laughter.  As darkness fell, the crowd dwindled, and the hardest part of our nomadic existence began again:


Saying good-bye.


The best part of our life is that we have friends, many friends, no matter where we go; and we’re always making more.  The hardest part is that no matter where we are, we miss people.


For the next two weeks we’ll give a lot of last long hugs, knowing that it will be a solid six months before we see loved ones again.


Me, Vanessa, Dianne, Robin & the Schenk kids

I’m going to miss tea time with Robin, although I’ll be packing along the little tea making contraption she got me for my birthday, so I’ll think of her every morning when I use it.


I’ll miss laughing with Lois. We live in the same world, with lots of little kids, none of whom ride the bus to school, we’re both wearers of many hats, makers of the best of what we have, and doers of things the hard way… and she’s one of the most cheerful people I know.


This was Jodi’s family’s first Canadian Thanksgiving with us. when I hugged her goodbye I reminded her to plant her garlic soon and that I’d be back to try it in the spring. She’s a new friend, and a kindred spirit. Her kids seemed genuinely excited about the promise of postcards.


Dianne got an extra squeeze goodbye. One for her, one for baby Laura, who will arrive mid winter.  I’m hoping very much to be back when she’s born, but there are many stars that will have to align to make that happen.


This morning we awoke in the home of other dear friends, the Klekars, our chosen family and travel buddies for years. My only Canadian friend in the states.

They spoiled us rotten with a pancake breakfast and a long visit on their deck in the fresh air, with the forest a riot of color in the background. Hugging them goodbye is a little easier than some of the others, somehow.  It’s not that we love them less, not at all… they’re just the friends that are always there: folks with whom we can pick up the threads as if we’ve just come in from the next room, even if we’ve not seen them for months. Besides that, they’re the most likely of the bunch to pack a bag and wing it south in the dead of winter. I hope sincerely that they do.


This afternoon was a busy one; the long drive home, followed by two hours of sorting, packing and cleaning.  The process of folding up one life and exchanging it for another has begun… again.