Frosh Out of Water: Thanks & Giving

Illustration by Augustine Ng.

My family takes Thanksgiving seriously. We probably put more effort into Thanksgiving dinner than Christmas and birthdays. Last year we used a spreadsheet to coordinate the menu, shopping list and when something needs to be put in the oven. And yes, it was colour-coded too.

I love Thanksgiving for a lot of reasons: the signs of fall, cooking with harvest ingredients—the long weekend doesn’t hurt, either. It’s a time to appreciate your family, your friends and all the other little things that make life worth living.

Growing up, my house was the one that filled the table with food and familiar faces. My sister and I would always invite our friends to join us for dinner. This tradition lasted for quite a while, but when we started university, the invites tapered off. Our friends grew up and went to schools that were farther and farther away, and as much as they liked us, they liked their own families more. In our household, Thanksgiving became a time where family just wasn’t one of the priorities, but the only priority.

Thanksgiving is probably the most important holiday to us, and this year, I don’t get to be there.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to be on exchange to meet new people and learn new things. But it’s moments like this when I really start to miss home. There’s this ache in the bottom of my heart that doesn’t quite go away.

It hurts to think about what I’m missing: my sister making an overly complicated salad and my mom insisting that this is her day to relax so she’s in charge of “supervising.” I find myself asking who’s going to make dessert or artfully arrange the table so that it’s Instagram-worthy.

Who’s going to take my place?

I tried to explain why Thanksgiving is so important to my friends here but something got lost in translation. The Danes, as lovely as they are, only seem to know about Thanksgiving from reruns of Friends. The debate of apple pie versus pumpkin pie or dark meat versus white meat is something they’ve never truly experienced.

Thanksgiving is probably the most important holiday to us, and this year, I don’t get to be there.

My parents joked about Skyping me in for dinner but I can only see that making things worse.

The idea of sitting on the sidelines while everyone else sets the table, fills their plates, and inevitably starts arguing about politics even though they promised not to, isn’t very appealing.

If anything, it just emphasizes that someone is missing.  It’s being there without actually being there.

I have a choice: I can dwell on the “could-have-beens” or I can enjoy my time here.

So here’s to being blessed enough to be in another country with new traditions and people. Here’s to sharing my culture and letting others experience something that I hold dear to my heart. Here’s to arguing about why Seinfeld is superior to Friends over a table filled with dishes I can’t pronounce.  

Here’s to a Danish dorm Thanksgiving. May it fill the turkey-shaped hole in my heart.