A few weeks ago, as we attended an award ceremony at our son’s school, I found myself looking around, realizing we were actually living the life we had talked about creating for our family. All the discussions months ago, the preparations. It all led to this. And considering all the changes our family has been through this year, I was so proud that our son was presented an award for confidence. It is everything I had hoped for our children as we made this move – for them to have the same confidence they had in their previous and familiar surroundings in our new home.
As the national anthem played, my eyes began to fill with tears.
There I was with this unfamiliar tune playing, proudly belted out by my husband and those around me. In that moment, I realized this would soon become the anthem that my children will learn and the history they will learn in school will be completely foreign to me. I understood what my husband must have felt all those years ago when he moved to America to pursue his education and eventually his career.
I was both proud that we are giving our children the opportunity to grow up here and experience a different lifestyle and culture, but saddened by the realization that a lot of history and tradition from America that I value and want to pass on to them will need to be taught at home, as they are no longer things they will learn in school. That responsibility will fall to me. And for the first time, I really felt that.
Our goal has always been to provide a rich and balanced heritage for our children, so we celebrate both Australian and American holidays – including Father’s Day in June and September (not fair). I suppose the consolation for a universal Mother’s Day is that my children think the Queen’s birthday is mine and celebrated it this year as such. I just didn’t have the heart to correct them.
So, this week as we prepare to celebrate our first Thanksgiving Down Under, I am trying to create new traditions that signify new beginnings – a representation of exactly where we find ourselves for the holiday this year. But, if I am being honest, I am struggling with something.
My calendar says November but my closet says summer. A time usually reserved for the best kept sweaters to find the way to the front of the closet has been replaced by summer dresses, rompers, and sandals.
And I am so confused.
A holiday signified by crisp autumn air, falling leaves, and the turn before the Christmas season is upon us, has been replaced by trips to the beach.
Each time I set foot in Woolies, I have to remind the kids, “we don’t decorate for Christmas until after we celebrate Thanksgiving!” One of them usually reminds me at that point about the year I left the Christmas tree up – story for another time. It’s true. All year.
Above and beyond my perpetual state of confusion due to the weather, there is the actual act of shopping to prepare for the holiday.
Although I have now managed to maneuver shopping carts that go sideways a little better than my first attempt (complete fail), cruising the aisles in desperation looking for anything made of pumpkin has left me empty-handed.
The only thing I can liken this to, is a morning without coffee.
Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie.
Of course, my husband is convinced we are going to toss a bunch of turkey sausages on the barbie and light it up, substitute pumpkin pie with apple, and that I will make some feeble attempt at homemade lefse.
Lord help me!
At least I know Dominos will be open since it won’t be a national holiday here. I mean, we are talking new traditions. This could work!
All joking aside, between my failed attempts at planning a holiday menu and trying to wrap my head around summer in November, I realized that we have a lot to be thankful for this year. And while those around us may not understand the holiday or the reason we celebrate (although it is quite a sorted story if you truly think about the history of Thanksgiving), we still do so as a reminder to reflect upon the previous year and all the things we can be grateful for.
Two years ago, I celebrated this holiday alone with our children, not knowing what would become of my marriage or our family as my husband was in the struggle of his life.
And now here we are. Together. Healthy. Halfway around the world.
At the end of the day, it isn’t about where you are. It is about the people you choose to celebrate with and the reasons you have for being thankful. Some years, finding thanks may prove more difficult than others, but there is always something. Sometimes you just need to look a little harder.
Above and beyond the act of giving thanks, this holiday is also an opportunity to open meaningful dialogue with the people around us, the people we choose to celebrate with, the people we choose to invite to our table.
This week, let’s all challenge ourselves, whether you are celebrating Thanksgiving or not, to lean into difficult conversations and be thankful for differing opinions that can challenge us.
In a year filled with divide, may your table be diverse and inclusive. And may your hearts and eyes be open.
Cheers to a new week!