The season’s first snow flakes are falling in Ohio. I play football together with my boys in the backyard of my parents’ house until our hands become so cold that we need to retreat back into the house. Inside we watch more football on TV. My mom, my wife, and my brother are shopping together in the next town over — enjoying the alternative sport of Day-After-Thanksgiving-Sales. Today is more or less a national holiday. But it is not an international holiday. I remember from my years of living in the Netherlands. Yesterday was just a plain old Thursday for most people in the world, and today is just a plain old Friday.
Days like these were difficult times for me personally, while our family was living in the Netherlands. I pined for my homeland. Most of the years that we lived in Amsterdam, I felt like our attempts at improvised Thanksgiving celebrations — with $100 turkeys, pies made with imported cans of pumpkin filling, and video-taped games from the preceding season of American football — were poor consolations for the “real thing.” Only in our last couple of years abroad were we able to really appreciate the joys of an international Thanksgiving feast and revel in the unique flavor of celebrating the holiday as expatriates (albeit typically on the weekend, instead of during the week).
Now that our family is living in America, I discover there are significant parts of me which actually pine for Thanksgiving in the Netherlands. I especially think of the friends from our church and my writing group who would celebrate together with us. We were (and still are) a sort of extended family. It makes sense, then, that we miss them even in the midst of enjoying our American Thanksgiving with our American families. In the midst of all our holiday celebrations, it seemed like we needed to take a moment to salute our friends overseas.
Thirty-second video clips can never make up for the opportunity to be in each other’s company, but hopefully they’re better than nothing. Suffice to say: We’re thinking of you, friends, as you circle your own tables and pray your own prayers of Thanksgiving this year. Even from here in Ohio, we’re thinking of the ways that you Amsterdammers have shaped our lives over the last ten years — including the first half of 2012 — and we’re thanking God for each of you this weekend. Even though we’re glad to be in Ohio this holiday season, we also kind of wish we could be there together with all of you, too.
Happy Thanksgiving, Pilgrim friends! You’re in our thoughts and prayers.