Spending the last two Thanksgivings away from home was one of the hardest parts of being an expat. Christmas is fairly universally celebrated, at least in Europe. But Thanksgiving is the American holiday. Like, good luck even finding a turkey.
Suffice it to say, I’m happy to be back home this November.
When you come home, everything has to be discovered again. Roads are revisited. The running path in the park has to be beaten into by feet it has long-forgotten. Crisp skies and the San Diegan winter introduce themselves again. And while it takes some getting used to, meeting the familiar as if they were strangers, the upside to “coming home” has been seeing with new eyes all these things I once took for granted.
This Thanksgiving I have a lot to be thankful for.
- Mexican food – Los Panchos, Lolita’s, Chili’s. I have missed real spices, real beans, real tortillas, real rice and real avocadoes. I waited a long time for this fiesta.
- Hand sanitizer – You may think I am crazy – and I am – but hand sanitizer makes my life 100 percent more manageable. And if it’s not the little things, it’s not anything.
- A nephew – As if this needs an explanation.
- My 14-year old brother – More specifically, my 14-year old brother who ties his own ties, speaks primarily in a deep Scottish brogue and has a running playlist of Irish folk music on nearly all the time. Dear sir, I love you.
- Water fountains – I’m sorry, but I can’t get over this one. Free water. Everywhere. This is America.
- Sunday mornings – Every single Sunday morning as we drive to church, as our car crests the big hill on Sweetwater road and Mt. Miguel comes into view, my dad will say softly, “Doesn’t our mountain look great today?” as if it has always belonged to us. Then he’ll say a prayer as the car winds beneath the evergreens towards our little church. Every Sunday.
- My 12-year old sister – Thank you for letting me borrow your clothes.
- “Jacket weather” – I know San Diego doesn’t have frosted forests and white-tipped steeples, but it’s nice having to put a jacket on after the sun’s gone down. Like, yes, we do have cold-ish weather.
- My Dad – When we drive somewhere and he breaks the conversation to say, “How many shades of green do you think are in those trees?” When he engages in a pun war or a game of Boggle and reminds us all what happens when you subscribe to Webster’s online dictionary ‘Word of the Day.’ When he suggests watching Disney cartoons on Saturday nights. When he believes in the plans God has for me even when I struggle to believe them myself.
- The Sun newsroom staff – I never expected the welcome I was given here. I never expected to feel so immediately part of a family again. God has been so gracious in putting you all in my life. And you have been gracious in putting up with my “Marydowns.” I thank you. And P.S. — there is no Thanksgiving like a Sunsgiving, is there?
- The radio – You guys have no idea. Two years without a radio nearly killed me. I was like, this close.
- Turkey – I’m all about that baste.
- Friends who stay in touch – It’s hard to sit down and write a letter or make time for a skype call when life throws you into the current of the everyday madness. I love my friends who freely give me precious pieces of their time.
- Rachel Platten – Don’t you dare judge me.
- Opportunity – Trying to figure out what to do next with my life has been the ongoing challenge of this year, but I’m thankful to live in a country where I can make that choice. Where it isn’t made for me by other people, by the government or by my circumstances.
- Immigrants – All my great-grandparents on my mom’s side are immigrants. They came over in the 1920s and ‘30s, some to a country where they did not know the language. They faced poverty, fear of the unknown and futures full of terrible possibility. They shaped this country with their lives. And because they lived, I live. Irish and Italian immigrants were heavily discriminated against when my great grandparents first came to America. Today, that mantel of mistrust and fear is born by other people groups. I am thankful for them, too. Thankful that they’ve been able to come to the safe harbor of our golden shores, and I hope that they will help us make our country better. I hope that we never become so fearful as a people that we close our doors to our brothers and sisters around the world, that we wouldn’t be willing to risk our own personal comfort to help the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
- God – How can I not mention my Lord and Savior? When I have felt most lost this year, when I have felt most empty, when I have felt most fearful, He has been there, for He is the greatest Comforter. What a Prince of Peace.