Saturday, 30 November 2013

Thanksgiving: UN Style

You can ask anyone who knows me well that when it comes to hosting events: 1) I love it and 2) I am obsessively organized about preparation.  One of the two of these characteristics may or may not experience great angst by the time the telling of this story is over.

We had postponed our Thanksgiving celebration until Saturday so that the maximum number of people could attend.  I had written earlier that we had received a few "hard" confirmations and also some "soft" maybes (or inshallahs in this country).

I woke up early to begin preparing for guests.  I had spent Friday in full-blown "bake mode" so that Saturday could be a more leisurely pace of tasks.  I pulled out my list which had all the dishes that I would be serving along with their start times for heating, length of baking, etc.  (I warned you I was obsessive.)

John helped me put the final touches around the house by hanging up a few pictures that I had found in our last batch of luggage.  Bing was singing in the background, "I've Got Plenty to Be Thankful For…" and the pumpkin pie looked like it was supposed to… Things were shaping up for a good holiday.

Around 10, John received a call from one of our Egyptian friends who asked if he still wanted to go to the furniture-making place. (Oh, so this is what our friend meant when he said that he would "see us Saturday" but would not be coming to dinner because he was "too shy."  Ah, it's finally clear to me.) John agreed so he left and went to meet our friend at the marina. 

Our neighbors called and asked if they could come early to begin prepping their dishes.  I told them, "Come on!"  We were all working in the kitchen getting things together when our German lady invitee and our French man invitee arrived.  We have only recently met either of them and thought this would be a good chance to get to know them.  

Josie* gave me a kiss on both cheeks and presented me with a card.  Louis* greeted us and handed me a bottle of wine. Ah, the French!  They are both in their retirement years and chose to come to our part of the world because of the weather.  Josie mentioned that her arthritis does much better here than in the cold, snowy days in Germany.

I put the card on our desk to read later and took the wine and placed it in the back of our refrigerator.  Our guest was gracious to think of us, but 1) we are not drinkers, 2) our M*slim friends were about to arrive (It is not permitted for M*slims to drink alcohol) and 3) Louis did not speak any English or Arabic, only French.  I speak no French.  Therefore any discussions or explanations about this or anything else would be extremely limited.

Our other Canadian friends arrived and soon the potluck meal was taking shape.  I had just whipped the potatoes with an obscene amount of butter when I realized that we were still missing one Egyptian family.  We checked on them and received word that they would be there in "2 minutes."  I smiled and hoped it would be under 20.  My index card with food countdowns had already included 60 minutes delay for late arrivals.  We were now embarking on 70-80 minutes...breathe, Pam, breathe.  They did arrive in good fashion and soon we were all together.

12 adults and 4 children sat down together, held hands as John thanked Jesus for allowing us to all be together and explaining the meaning of Thanksgiving.  I became a good Egyptian mother and began placing large heaps of potatoes, meat and veggies on our guests' plates.  Most had never had southern sweet potato casserole and it proved quite a hit.  We had all managed to create a very typical American Thanksgiving meal which is quite impressive since John and I were the only Americans in the room.
Thanksgiving Forks--a Family Tradition

As is tradition, I had placed our "trick forks" at 3 different places on the table.  John first stretched his out and demonstrated its use.  Soon everyone looked at their forks to see if they had one.  Only 2 other lucky ones did.  We got a good laugh and telescopic forks were flinging around the table.

I had placed Louis at the end of the table with the one other person who could mutter any French at all.  I grouped the Arabic speakers with some others and thankfully Josie knew English because I was fresh out of translators.

We passed around the dishes until absolutely no more food could be consumed.  Everyone did the stretch back from the table thing and complimented the meal.  I took this as my cue (and as a good southern cook) to offer more.  They all groaned and I knew my work here was finished.

Everyone began clearing the table and we began to prepare for dessert which would come later.  Our Egyptian friends had to leave because of their daughter's private lessons, but thanked us for inviting them to our "special day."  They reiterated that they enjoyed themselves and really liked the stuffing and sweet potato dishes.

Louis lived nearby so he invited all of the men to come to his apartment to view his car collection.  The women-folk stayed behind and cleaned our place so fast you couldn't even tell that we had had a large number of people here.  Louis' car collection consists of miniature race cars that he builds himself.  In his earlier years he had been a rally car driver and was quite successful by the number of trophies John said he had in his flat.  John then showed him pictures of his father with classic cars and soon the culture/language barrier was broken.  They had found common ground.

After the men returned we began to prepare for the showing, "White Christmas."  This is a tradition that has been in my family for years.  We all watch it together as the women swoon and clap while the men roll their eyes and mock.  (That's part of the tradition, too.)  To my shock, we were the only ones in the room who had seen "White Christmas," but the rest had heard of it and were anxious to see it.  I was happy to oblige.  

"Sisters...Sisters...There were never such devoted sisters..."

Our friend had a handy little gadget that attached to John's phone which would then project the movie onto our wall to create a "theater-like" ambiance.  Way cool.  We first did a pre-show and introduced "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving."  The kids really liked it especially since they were given cupcakes to enjoy during the viewing.

I realized only too late I don't own a pie pan.
Someone had made coffee, I had dished desserts and now the viewing of "White Christmas" was ready to start.  However, the children had had their fill of good times and Josie was feeling a bit under the weather.  They regretfully said their goodbyes and the rest of us settled in for the show.

We laughed, sang and clapped and only one man fell asleep!  (This is a remarkable statistic!)  As Bing and Danny sang the final chorus of "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," I couldn't help but smile as I thought about this wild, amazing life we live.  It almost sounds like the start of a joke…a German, a French guy and an Egyptian walk into a Thankgiving dinner…

It's difficult to be separated from our daughters and family especially at holidays, but I am thankful that no matter where we are at in the world that we find "family" wherever there are those that love Jesus and follow Him.  The fruit of that love is community and care.  There's really no better definition of Thanksgiving than that.  

So to all our family in the US and around the world we want to say a sincere Happy Thanksgiving and tell you how grateful we are that our lives are connected.  We are better people because we've had the privilege of sharing life with you.  And if you love "White Christmas" you may have just endeared yourself a little bit more…

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