I have spent the last fifteen years feeling like an oddity on this particular day. Every year, as Thanksgiving rolled around, I’d book the Thursday and Friday off work — it just felt wrong to spend those two days at my desk — and search high and low for a turkey in November (a what?), usually having to settle for some turkey breast fillets instead, and prepare to cook a mountain of food for just M and me, or for a few friends who would come round after work to eat this strange feast on a work night.
But it wasn’t any of that that made me feel like an oddity. It was the fact that no one else got the idea behind the holiday. No one understood the true meaning — and so I was unable to live out that meaning, which is to share in the communal pause of an entire nation taking one day to come together to be grateful for its myriad blessings. Thanksgiving is not really about the food, it’s not about the day off, it’s not about football or the Macy’s Parade… and it is, most of all, not about singularity. And though I was always surrounded by friends who humoured me, I knew from the questions (“Do we bring gifts?” “Will we have fireworks?” “Do we eat… hotdogs?”) that I was always singular in celebrating the true spirit of the day.
Since we’ve come back to the US ten months ago, I have felt so much more out of place than I had expected to — completely like a fish out of water. Though I thought I was coming home, I found that what was once familiar now feels strange, and what was once comforting is now… not at all. I have longed to turn around and go straight “home” to Britain again — and then wondered if I’d find same thing happening all over again there. I have begun to think that perhaps I simply don’t fit in anywhere any more — not really — and that no matter where we end up, I will live my days out feeling like I ought to be somewhere else… and probably never knowing where that is.
But today is Thanksgiving, and I am in the States for the first time since I left home all those years ago. We ate turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potato souffle, beans, and brussels sprouts. The parade was on the background, which then gave way to the football. Bellies were filled to bursting and belts had to be loosened.
And while we all gave thanks for health and happiness, homes and jobs, food and friendship, life and love… I paused and gave thanks for the quiet joy of my first Thanksgiving with my family in fifteen years, and the way — for today, at least — I felt completely at home.