My mouth is watering. Or at least it would be, if I were in America. Bombarded all month long with reminders that Thanksgiving has finally arrived, I would eagerly be awaiting that traditional Thursday morning when Mom and I would cook the turkey in our pajamas while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I would’ve already purchased a bag of marshmallows to coat the top of Nana’s sweet potato pie. The green bean casserole would have been made the night before, and a box of Mallomars would be stashed away, hidden, so we’d have them all for dessert. Some time around noon, after most of the work has been done, my sister would finally roll out of bed and monitor our progress with disheveled hair.
My Thanksgiving was ripe with tradition. Accompanied by a delicious, once-a-year meal and surrounded by friends and family, there’s no wonder why I count it among my favorite holidays.
But over the years, in small doses at a time, Thanksgiving began to change. A divorce cut our guest list in half. Black Friday began earlier and earlier, until it eventually spilled over to Thursday, causing our family (who would not, under any circumstances, wait outside a store at 4am) significant distress. And the Radio City Rockettes were losing their luster.
And then one fateful year, I joined the Peace Corps, and all tradition flew out the window. While it’s difficult for me to think about missing Thanksgiving, it’s even more distressing to imagine my family, who must feel as though my departure was like the having the rug swept out from under their feet.
I suppose it makes a Thanksgiving-less November easier to deal with when I consider that my oven will not host a turkey this year. Or that I am not missing out on sweet potato pie.
Still, I feel an overwhelming sadness for them, and a crushing sense of pressure. While on the one hand, I feel honored that my presence carries that much weight at the dinner table, I am afflicted by the knowledge that my choices and decisions have made such an impact. For my family, Thanksgiving has drastically deviated from the norm.
Although tradition has slipped and family unity does not count for much this year, no one is going to be sitting home alone and feeling sorry for themselves, least of all me. This year, we’ll all be venturing our separate ways, but we’ll be in the company of close friends. That definitely counts for something.
My plans include celebrating Thanksgiving with my government-issued friends – who are beginning to feel a little more like family – in the style of a potluck dinner at a cottage on the beach. I doubt we’re going to have a turkey, but there will be a pumpkin pie. I know at least one volunteer is making stuffing, I am responsible for cinnamon poached apples, and of course, the essentials will be present; namely wine.
It will be different to celebrate a traditional American holiday in a country that is not my own, without my family, and with friends I only met a few months ago. But I don’t think any of that matters. These friends have been become my crutch, my anchor. Though some of us are at different stages of our service, and all of us come from different backgrounds, we all have one thing in common; we’re Peace Corps Volunteers. We’ve made sacrifices to follow a dream and achieve some good. We knowingly traded our comforts for something unknown and wild. We’ll all be thinking of our families this Thursday, and we’ll all feel a little homesick, but I think it’s safe to say that the choices we’ve made are worth the things we’re giving up. I wouldn’t trade my Peace Corps experience for anything in the world. I am exactly where I want to be at this point in my life. And in the spirit of giving thanks, I can be grateful for just that.