Wednesday, November 21, 2007


When I was growing up, Thanksgiving Day meant nothing to me. We lived in Costa Rica, so it was just another Thursday. Although my brother and I were on summer vacation, my parents worked, so there was no celebrating in November. I don't really remember our Thanksgivings in the U.S. before that.

However, that's not to say that we didn't celebrate Thanksgiving. On some random day in March, my dad would randomly announce, "We're having Thanksgiving on Sunday!" Just because he felt like it. In the beginning, turkeys were not easy to come by in Costa Rica. My dad had to ask for leads about farmers who might possibly raise turkeys and would be willing to sell us one. The two of us drove all over Creation trying to find them. It was always the two of us, because I loved running errands with him. Later on, an American meat market started selling them. (Along with pastrami and corned beef.) Now you can get them at any grocery store, but in the beginning it was a challenge, which made it all the more special.

We would invite my mom's side of the family, my grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, anyone who just wanted to come have a good meal and celebrate this Gringo holiday. We did it enough times that everyone started really looking forward to it, and people would ask when the next Thanksgiving would be. Sometimes we would do it twice a year, maybe more.

My dad's mother had taught my mother how to prepare a good old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinner years earlier. She made everything but the turkey and the mashed potatoes. Those were my dad's domain, his Aunt Mary's family recipe. It involved adding a whole stick of butter and making them nice and fluffy with the mixer. And we would hoard cans of cranberry sauce family or friends would bring down from the U.S., until it became available in Costa Rica.

Things change. The celebration expanded to include my Costa Rican sister-in-law's family. My dad is no longer with us. It is now celebrated at my brother's house (the house we grew up in) and my mother has passed the baton to my sister-in-law, who now cooks a mean Thanksgiving dinner. I remember the day my mom pulled out all of my grandmother's old recipes and "trained" her. She was so nervous the first time, writing everything down in her little notebook, and now she's a pro. Heck, I've never been in charge of an entire Thanksgiving dinner, and I feel slightly guilty that I never took my mom up on her offer to teach me. I make some great side dishes, but they all come from those gourmet magazines and include ingredients like ginger and orange zest (though I can't stand stuffing that includes any weird ingredients, like oysters, nuts or raisins). My family, who still like their cranberry sauce straight from the can, would be appalled.

We're hosting Thanksgiving for the second time this year. No traveling, just some good friends who I can't wait to see. There will be eight of us at the table. We've decided to host Thanksgiving at home as often as we can. The Thanksgivings we've had since we moved here have been awesome, and memorable. There was our first Thanksgiving, which P and I celebrated alone in a rented apartment. The Thanksgiving we spent in the Midwest with his family. The Thanksgiving we celebrated with friends just four days before I gave birth, when I decided to have a glass of wine and someone got a great picture of me balancing my wine glass on my massive belly.

But every Thanksgiving I think about the old days, and miss them just a little. The days of celebrating Thanksgiving just because we felt like it.

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