More Than Just Turkey – An American Expat Explains Thanksgiving

Turkey & The Trimmings

Since moving to England, I’ve had to explain a few American holidays with Thanksgiving being one. There seems to be a lot of confusion here about why we celebrate it and what it is exactly.

Most people know about the turkey, but not much more than that.  A young woman asked me the other day if it’s like Christmas for Americans only without the gifts.

Suppressing a laugh, I said there were no presents at Thanksgiving and that like others who celebrate Christmas, we save our gifts for the tree, not the turkey.

I told her about the early settlers and how fortunate the Pilgrims were to be fed by the Native Americans when there wasn’t enough food to go around.

I talked about how it’s a celebration of family by most and a gathering of people who sit down to tables loaded with memories created from family recipes passed down through generations.

I forgot to mention how it’s football and alcohol and a chance to over-indulge in more than just food for some folks.

I didn’t say much about the thanks in Thanksgiving or how we talk about gratitude and blessings, generally sharing some of what we’re grateful for before the first fork is lifted.

I didn’t say how it feels to be so far from my other home on days like these or how we really do exchange gifts in a way although not the kind that can be purchased from a favorite store.

I should have talked about the gifts of memory that are mixed in with the pie and family favorites, and the stories of loved ones long gone who come alive for a moment when we remember them, especially when we join hands with those sitting next to us, bow our heads and give thanks.

Most Americans, with me included, tend to make a big to-do about the turkey and the trimmings, but in the end I think we just want a little more time with those we love and whether it’s in person, or in memory, Thanksgiving forces us to focus on what really matters.

Happy Thanksgiving to friends and family who celebrate this day.

If you have a gift of memory you’d like to share, I’d love to read about it. Please leave a link if you have one on your blog today or tell us a family favorite that comes up each year. 

Caught With My Pants Down By Dolphin Watchers

Yesterday was quite the adventure beginning with a four-hour hike up and down some pretty serious hills seeing views like the one below.

We were stepping lively in order to meet our boat pick up so we could get back to Picton. You haven’t heard from me in a few days because we have been tucked away in an isolated place with very limited internet access. It was dial-up and could only be accessed from 4-6 pm each day. I almost broke out in hives when I discovered that which is a clear sign that I am way too attached to my internet connection.

The Cougar Line (no jokes please) is the boat that picked us up and later brought us back from a location so special it deserves a post of its own later. Note the front of the boat. You can’t see it, but a door lifts up and opens allowing people to walk up steps from the inside to the deck above.

Three guesses where I was when the boat slowed and the hatch opened? Do you see the skylight opening above the toilet … when people climb up those steps and stand on the walkway they are right over the skylight and able to look down into the ladies toilet.

We were safely far enough from shore that I thought I had time to whip into the loo for a quick break before reaching our next passenger pickup stop. Imagine my surprise when we slowed down and I saw a head appear above me.  Any concern I had was quickly forgotten by the sight that greeted me on my hasty exit from the toilet.

As you can see no one was really paying ANY attention to me. When I stepped out, I saw that our boat was surrounded by about twenty dolphins who were having a great time jumping in and out of the water.

See the dolphin breathing above … they were so playful swimming right next to the boat as you can see below. I was giggling like a little girl at times because I was tickled to see them so close.

The photograph below gives you idea of how close they were to the boat and there were times they got even closer. I was surprised how close!

As the boat began to leave the area, some of the dolphins seemed to want to stay with us and picked up speed swimming along beside us for a short while longer. It was a highlight seeing so many at one time. I’ve seen a few in the past, but nothing like yesterday.

I will try not to let so much time pass before my next post, but some of you will be cooking and eating turkey with friends and family in a day or two so you won’t be reading blogs anyway.

It will be Thursday here in about three hours and while I doubt I’ll be having any turkey or dressing I will spend some time thinking about all the people and things in my life that I am thankful for. I don’t have to have Thanksgiving to recognize the gifts in my life and I hope whether you celebrate Thanksgiving where you are or not, that you have the gifts of friends and family around you each day.


A Grateful Heart

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.

~Thornton Wilder

On this day of American Thanksgiving I want to take a minute to say a few words. In a few hours I will sit down with some of my family and friends to share a meal. Sadly they won’t all be here, but rest assured I will be thinking of them as my step-mother Cullene offers a Thanksgiving blessing that while it varies slightly from year to year has a familiarity that is as constant as seeing her at the door to welcome me whenever I come home.

I try to live in a state of awareness and gratitude for the everyday gifts of love and friendship that I am fortunate to be able to claim as mine. These are infinitely more dear to me than anything in shiny paper and string and just as important as awareness is for me, so too is acknowledgement.

Most of the time I think I do a pretty good job of letting people know how grateful I am for the connections we share, but just in case….

I’m grateful for every minute I get to spend with my now grown up girl

… and for the love and respect of this man I adore.

I’m grateful for Cullene who mothers me like a child of her own.

I’m grateful for my sister Margaret who lives almost as far from our home state as I do …

… and my sister Jennie who prefers to stay a bit closer to her southern roots.

I’m grateful for a chance to say hello to family I had not seen for years and goodbye to a place that has a special history.

I am so fortunate to have the friends I do and I wish I had time to post a photograph of each and every one of you, but the turkey is almost ready and people will be coming through the door in a minute so I need to say ….

I’m so very grateful for those of you who take time to stop by GOTJ and especially those who leave a comment or two because that’s how the circle grows … increasing my good fortune and my group of friends.

Life Changes & Family Reunions

The picture above was taken around 1995. From right to left we are … Becky, Shelley (with son Josh) McKenzie, Mikellah, and me. Since this picture was taken, all of the girls have children of their own and Shelley has added two more sons to her brood of three boys. Sadly, and it makes me tear up to write this, my cousin Becky, the mother of these three darling young women died suddenly last year of a heart attack.

I’m up early getting ready for my drive up to the North Georgia Mountains where I’ll reunite with my cousins at the One-Shot cabin. Since the cabin is up for sale, it will probably be the last time I’ll have a chance to be in the space that has such personal meaning and memories for each of us.

I’ve been looking forward to this reunion for quite some time. It has been years since I’ve seen the girls and I’ve not had a chance to meet their children yet with the exception of Josh. Life gets in the way of families getting together sometimes and you always think there will be more time. Maybe next year we tell ourselves and the years just pass us by. The last time I spoke with Becky I remember exactly where I was sitting and what we said. We both thought at our age that we had all the time in the world. Her early death last year reinforced how we may not always get another chance.

While I’m home for the Thanksgiving holiday with my family and friends, I’m taking time this time, to see Becky’s girls and grandchildren making good on that promise I made a few years ago to get up to the cabin again.

Even though the two women I associate most with the One-Shot cabin will be missing in body today, I feel sure that the echo of their distinctive voices will somehow be present. Both my great aunt Wylly, who named the cabin and infused it with her energy and her grandaughter, my cousin Becky, who raised her family there and called it home had the kind of voice you would never forget. I don’t even have to close my eyes to hear them now. I have a feeling I’ll be hearing them again today. Whether it’s a whisper of the past calling out from a corner of the cabin, or in the voices and expressions of Shelley, Mikellah and McKenzie, I think I’ll have that moment together with them all, for one last time at the One-Shot cabin.

Rebecca Anne St. John & Wylly Folk St. John

July 4, 1972