Thanksgiving, for most of my adult life, has been a holiday just slightly out of my reach. Due to an equation of geographic and spatial inequity (meaning: we lived far away, and our house was too small), we never hosted the holiday. Thanksgiving meant a car ride to my mother-in-law’s or sister-in-law’s house. Cousins would play together, and we would spend most of the weekend in our pajamas, pausing to cut some onions or make another pot of coffee.
It was nice. But an ocean and eternity separates us now, and we are learning, on the cusp of middle age, how to do Thanksgiving on our own.
Last year, we were in our house for one week, and then it was Thanksgiving. We were still foraging through boxes to find our tupperware, and the idea of asking for bananas at the fruiteria induced panic attacks. Also? We hadn’t made any friends yet. So, we walked to the beach in the morning, had a few beers at the local Irish pub, and returned to our new home and enjoyed a small meal together.
It felt like we were trying the holiday on, but it was a little loose in the arms, and slightly too snug at the waist. Just off.
Fast forward a year. One year, of humility and laughter and the steepest learning curve of my life, and it is our second Thanksgiving. Nuestra dia de accion de gracias.
And we decided to claim it. For the actual day, we went to the home of one of the dearest souls in Spain, along with sixty-ish other expats and local folks. And when we lifted our glasses to toast, I blinked back a sudden wave of emotion. Pure, unfiltered gratitude. For the imperfect beauty of gathering–this choice to give of each other, if even for only a few hours.
On Saturday, we did it again. This time, at our home. We celebrated Spainksgiving—-Spanish-American Thanksgiving. My friend and I decided that we wanted to give our Spanish family a taste of our home. It evolved into a handful of couples and their children—some speaking only English, others speaking only Spanish, and a few meeting in the middle. We brought food and tarta and drinks.
And again, as I raised my glass, my voice almost betrayed me. Because again, there’s that broken beauty of friendship. Like a mosaic, we take the bits and pieces of each other….the rough bits, the smooth bits, and we bind them together. Alone, we’re flawed and imperfect; together, we’re art.
I will always communicate better in English. There are things I simply cannot discuss outside of my native tongue. No puedo. But this very deficiency is why my friendships with some Spanish are so dear. Being friends with me take more work–more awkward pauses, more misunderstandings.
But they are still there. They show up to my house, and celebrate this most foreign of holidays. The fire crackles in the background, and forks scrape against our plates. We refill our glasses, and pass around plates of cheese.
And we claim this holiday, and this place. The mosaic catches the light.