Thanksgiving. A strange concept when you aren't living in a place it is typically celebrated. I give thanks daily for all I have in my life deserving of my thanks. But on a special day dedicated just for this purpose, it was strange to find the rest of the 'world' going on with business as usual, when all I wanted to do was help prepare turkey dinner, enjoy family, play some games, and maybe head to the mountains with my dad like we did when I was a kid.
So, because we always make certain to make a celebration of Thanksgiving honoring American traditions, but also knowing this year it falls on Sunday, I took celebration into my own hands (with a friend of course). We, the Americans in Holland. We, two expat women looking to find some tradition in a day just like every other.
I went into Holland with my husband after dropping Jari off at daycare. He dropped me off at the train station and I took it into the shopping center where I had one hour to do my own version of Black Friday before catching the train again to meet up with my girlfriend. When I arrived in Helmond, I had this excitement wash over me...it was Thanksgiving, and I was celebrating...with someone special in a non-traditional way.
When I saw her come walking toward me I forgot for a moment that it was Thanksgiving, and we started laughing and chatting, as friends are akin to do. Suddenly we both looked at each other and chanted: Happy Thanksgiving! We both laughed waiting for our bus to take us to her home. We were together, even as we were both mourning the loss of our holiday in our homeland with our family surrounding us. We were both homesick, but after a spell talking and relaxing, that feeling started to subside. I realised that though I wasn't surrounded by my family, I was surrounded by people I care about and who care about me. Here, I have created an extended family for myself, with special friends I treasure. And I was sharing this day with one of these people I remembered a wooden sign I had brought back for her once from the states saying: Friends are the Family You Choose For Yourself. Or something along those lines.
It is so very true. Family is family. Our expectations are that they will always be there in our lives, and often that doesn't turn out to be the case. And it devastates us. But friends whom we choose, those we aren't expected to give our heart, those we decide are worthy of our love, they are the ones who sincerely stand by your side.
We sat eating turkey sandwiches and then watched a movie (Twilight...I FINALLY got to see it...yeah!) and then chatted some more before I headed back to the train station in the rain. But I wasn't hiding tears streaming down my face as the rain mingled with them...I was feeling completely fulfilled with a gladness and thankfulness different thqn I expected to have on Thanksgiving. I had spent the day being reminded what I really have to give thanks for. And as I climbed back in the car when my husband collected me from the train, I knew that my family has grown since my move to Europe. My family includes some very special friends.