Sunday, November 25, 2007

"This is the best Thanksgiving ever!"

Our front door

After nearly four months of sobbing and whining and romanticizing life at home, Samuel finally delivered this coup de grace, so to speak, just before loading up his plate full of Thanksgiving delights. He can never, never complain again (well…) about how it isn’t like home here. In other words, we truly did have a great Thanksgiving weekend and it bodes well for Christmas.

In many ways our Thanksgiving dinner was just like being at home: the turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes (with marshmallows, even!), mashed potatoes, gravy (two kinds), green beans, fruit salad, jello salad (what American holiday is complete without it?), rolls and butter, and pies (apple, pumpkin, and peanut butter), a big table with a grandpa and grandma, kids and babies, young and old, and lots of feasting and laughter. In other ways, not so much: all of Hohhot continued with its normal routine outside our building, we had to get a turkey from the import warehouse, marshmallows and pumpkin filling were brought all the way from the States, as were the decorations, and the only football to be seen was the tag football game the next day on the IMNU campus.

Just before the dinner—which we had on Friday as everyone taught on Thursday—Samuel and Grace ran up and down the stairs like frenzied… uh… kids (I cannot think of anything that could be more crazed and frenzied than two kids just before Thanksgiving dinner, except maybe two kids on Christmas Eve). Vanetta and the kids set up and decorated the dinner table in her apartment on the 5th floor, but the dinner spread covered tables set up in Lynette’s apartment, across the hall from us on the 4th floor. So, lots of exercise before the meal. All of the American teachers at IMNU came, along with Marsha’s parents, in China for two weeks. The kids piled on the food (Samuel ate too much and was found “scavenging”—his word—after everyone else was pushing the plates away), my apple pie turned out as a decent replica of my pies at home, my stuffing actually worked for once, and everything tasted absolutely wonderful together, including the Butterball turkey, courtesy of the import warehouse.

The dinner table--Samuel and Grace set the table.

Unveiling Mr. Butterball

The spread--Karen on left, Marsha and me contemplating the food.

Peanut butter, apple, and pumpkin pie!

This is Jed, who fills the role of crazy uncle for the kids. He wins the prize for most food on a small square plate.

Trying to break the wishbone a little too soon.

After the dinner clean up we all gathered around in Vanetta’s apartment for Christmas carols. I’ve never done that before on Thanksgiving—certainly not a group sing-a-long without music—but I have to say it was a heck of a lot of fun. Grace and Samuel even performed “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” together in front of everybody! They’d been practicing for a couple weeks but I never thought they would have the nerve to do it, Grace especially. But they did it beautifully, got a huge round of applause and their sappy mom had to wipe tears of pride out of her eyes. Without the t.v. blaring commercials at us, cramming toys, power tools, diamonds, and sentimental blather into us, without the incessant Christmas carols in every store, without the whole shebang that generally starts assaulting us at home a week before Thanksgiving (or even as early as Nov. 1), the singing seemed like a really natural bridge from the one holiday into the other. Somehow we felt the spirit of the holiday, even while all of Hohhot went about its usual business.

The Christmas season is now officially upon us and we can make of it what we want, without all the outside interference. So we will bake and decorate sugar cookies, put up snowflakes and color pictures of Santa, listen to our favorite Christmas albums, maybe even watch some sappy Christmas movies, and no matter what we do, it will be of our own creation. That may seem pretty radical to Hallmark and the advertising business, but I hope it will carry over in years to come.

Saturday morning Vanetta knocked on our door with a huge pile of books—both Christmas and otherwise. Turns out we were the happy recipients of her housecleaning and de-cluttering. Of course, with so many new books we had to go to the Muslim market to get a basket to hold them, space being something of very short supply. While at the market Grace and I found an entire booth (sandwiched between the dried fruit stand and the lollipop stand) dedicated to kitschy and not so kitschy Christmas decorations. We poured over them all and finally chose the shiniest and most Santa Claus-y one we could find for our door. I am eyeing the big fuzzy white balls and the blue bell wreath, but I don’t know if I can subject the kids to such terrible taste. We will probably just content ourselves with the wonderful Christmas craft books we inherited from Vanetta and make our own.

And that’s about all there is. Samuel and Dave got to watch a bit of football highlights on the t.v. this morning (Sunday), wonderful friends and family are sending us the few things we need to make Christmas complete (can you believe we left stockings at home??), another turkey is in the freezer for Christmas dinner, and it’s getting really cold. What more could we ask for?


Belinda Starkie said...

Well, your sappy ol' Mom writes this with tears welling to flood gate proportion. I'm so happy the children are learning to adapt and thrive. It is even more wonderful that you 4 are not alone as, what is it? waigons/foreigners.

I so admire all our ancesters who broke from their home countries and brought their peanut butter pies to our shores. Mom will really appreciate the a cappella Christmas carols.

Haphazardkat said...

how wonderful! I'm glad to hear you had a wonderful Thanksgving. Your pies looked delicious. Especially the one with chocolate (?) drizzled on it. mmmmm.

Bring on Christmas!!

Michelle Ellis said...

Yay!! I was really worried. It seems as if you've found yourself community in your little corner of China.

That is awesome!