Today at school, we celebrated Thanksgiving over a huge lunch of turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. There were rice and beans and other Brazilian additions, but it was, for the most part, a real Thanksgiving dinner. (Except at 11:15 in the morning.)
Our boss said a quick prayer during which she asked us to close our eyes for twenty seconds and think of the things we are thankful for and to think of the people who couldn’t be with us. I, of course, thought of my family who I have spent Thanksgiving with for years and years. Every year, our spread-out family came from all around New England to one house (in the early years it was the Fishcreek Inn in Saratoga, NY) that we’d rent for the weekend. And we would sit around talking and cooking. I’d see these people once a year and so this weekend, this day, of the whole year was the one I loved the most.
Over the past several years, I haven’t had Thanksgiving with them. I have been with boyfriends’ families or on my own or a day late. But it is this day, of all the days in the year, that make me most love my family. I loved the frost on the grass in the early morning, or the pickup football game we kids would play on the lawn of the Fishcreek. I loved the chocolate pies, the apple pies, the pecan pies and the pumpkin ones. The mashed sweet potatoes. The little pickles. I loved how we sang together in front of fireplaces in the homes we rented in New York or Vermont. I loved how we played games and sat talking and did yoga and made fun of each other. I loved how I could mark the passage of time by witnessing, for only one day a year, the growth of my younger cousins. I loved hearing how our conversations changed: from boys or girls we liked to essays we had to write to applications for college to applying for jobs. I loved how we met each other’s boyfriends and girlfriends. Thanksgiving was the one day of the year where it was all about us, our family, our triumphs and struggles, our love and support for each other.
Probably today I feel more sad about not being with my family than I have on any day that I’ve been in Brazil so far. Probably today is a little bit harder than yesterday and will be a little bit harder than tomorrow. It feels weird to celebrate Thanksgiving amidst the greenery of palm and mango trees, feels weird giving thanks, officially, when in the background I hear samba music and monkeys chattering, and it feels weird not to wrap a scarf around my neck when I go outside.
One of our traditions at the Fishcreek Inn was to say to each other, once our bellies were stuffed, something we were thankful for. All fifteen or seventeen of us took a moment to say our words, some with explanations, others with blushes or grins or giggles. One year, I said very boldly that I was thankful for possibility. I didn’t explain what I meant and some of my family joked about what possibilities I could be thankful for. Then again, I wasn’t sure I had an explanation.
Looking back on it now, I am still thankful for possibilities. I am thankful for the chance to know that anything I want to happen is possible. I wanted this journey to Brazil to be possible, and it was. And I’m here. And I’m thankful for that. I am thankful for my family and for my friends–old and new and ones who I haven’t talked to in years. I am thankful for learning a new language and learning to let things go. I am thankful for working with students who, every day, make me happy. I am thankful for becoming more of myself because I am here.
But while a large part of me is so thankful for being here, for following my dream and for landing myself here, today–and today alone–I feel a little lonely for the people I loved at the Fishcreek Inn. I wonder how they are, if they are all together, if they will sing the grace before the meal, if they will sing The Beatles after it. I wonder if they will relax, in a satisfied laziness against each others’ bodies and drift off into a beautiful sleep. I wonder if they will drink their wine and tell their tales and listen to each other’s music and stories and voices until the ealry hours. I wonder if Dewey will bring boxes of tea and Manchego cheese. I wonder if Tico will bring his guitar and if Bruce will play with him. I wonder if Henry will be there from Colorado and if Norah is still exploring Georgia. I wonder if Leif has married his gilfriend or if he’s planning to, I wonder if Courtney and Abigail and Liz still all look exactly the same. I wonder if Corey is still and quiet and philosophical. I wonder if Eliza is turning into a young woman. I wonder if Dana has a good job. I wonder about Sarah. I wonder, if I were there, what would we talk about altogether? Would we kids remember the times we stole the chocolate pies and brought them back to the cabin for ourselves? Would we laugh about Tico’s Tall Tales? Would we go round the table once, twice, three times, with jokes?
I imagine we would. And that thought of us altogether makes my heart squeeze. Today, I think it is fair to say I am homesick.