Sarah’s “Thanks and Snow” post touched briefly upon what life is like for those of us that cannot (or choose not) to make it home for Thanksgiving. My four Thanksgivings might offer a reasonable opportunity for expansion.
Freshman year: I was on the border between sticking around and buying a plane ticket home to Alabama (gratuitous link, I apologize; I just can’t help myself). On the one hand, I didn’t want to miss out on the first chance to compare college notes with my friends from home. I had some idea of the one-upsmanship that would be going on–“no, no, no, we study harder, and party harder, and have better burger nights than y’all ever do at XYZ University”–and didn’t want Middlebury to be entirely out of the mix. Things had been going well though, and I thought it might be nice to work on final papers (sleep), study ahead (sleep), and get some exercise (maybe eat something) at Middlebury. As luck would have it, one of my roommates offered to take an Alabaman refugee home with him for the holidays. I met his parents, his little sister, his grandparents, his “home friends,”–all of the context that we often miss here. I ate well, slept on a real bed, and got to feel clean carpet under my bare feet for the first time in months.
Sophomore year: Apparently not as enthralled by clean carpeting, I decided to stay in my room on campus. There were a number of other international/southern/western students around, but it was quiet. Too quiet? For me, no. For many others, perhaps yes. I thought it was interesting to see the contrast between Middlebury in and out of session. The sidewalks were filled with families from town usually scared away by the huddled masses. And the Thanksgiving meal? Weybridge, the all organic, generally vegetarian, eco-friendly, insert other adjective related to “crunchy” here, house had that well taken care of.
Junior year: While in England I enjoyed my first, and I imagine last, Thanksgiving meal in a tuxedo. The provost of my college invited the American students over to his home, where he proceeded to ridicule the runaway colonies and pumpkin pie for the majority of the evening. All of the insults were, of course, just sarcastic enough to reveal that was how he truly felt. Regardless, the meal was wonderful, and I didn’t spill anything on the tux–success all around.
Senior year: I once again seriously contemplated flying home. For the same reasons as Freshmen year (along with my being a frighteningly frugal young man), I decided to stick around. Yet once again, I found myself on Thanksgiving day surrounded by the family members of a close friend. I now proudly count Glastonbury, Connecticut; Oxford, England; and New Paltz, New York among my top four places to celebrate thanksgiving. I also recognize that while the holidays are indeed a time to be spent with family and friends, exploring something new with the latter can be a rewarding exercise. Do sweet potatoes really need marshmallows on top? Aren’t they already sweet potatoes? Or, somewhat more significantly, what does one say when the turkey prepared in England is far, far better than anything you have ever tasted in the US? All questions for another post, along with whether I’ve had thanksgiving in more than four places anyway.