Have you ever tried to explain the US tradition of Thanksgiving to someone from another country, in another language? It’s not easy! “Well the Pilgrims came and had a very tough winter, but the Indians, I mean the Indigenous, helped them to survive, so to celebrate at the beginning of the next winter, and probably to solicit help again, the Pilgrims had a great feast of turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, Libby’s pumpkin pie and invited the Indians, to give thanks to God before they stole all the land from the Indigenous.” Hmmm. It loses something in the translation!
My daughter, Rebecca, tried this with her Aussie friends when she was living in Australia. “Pumpkin pie? Yuk?” She told them when they were kids in school they would dress up in costumes like Indians and Pilgrims. Her friends arrived for the dinner bearing facsimiles of traditional American Thanksgiving dishes . . . but thought that they had to dress up in costume, and so they did!
We had a low key Thanksgiving, the kind I like, with our friends Brad & Jackie. Nikki did the turkey (thankfully a 14 pound Butterball – yes, we have them now in Panama – so we don’t have to eat leftovers for weeks) and Brad made all the fixings. My brother, Ed, who lives in a little casita on our farm was there, and our Gnobe Bugle maintenance guy, Sabino, as well. So it was fun trying to explain US Thanksgiving to Sabino, but as he chomped on a turkey leg and drank Blue Nun like water, he got the hang of it.
I am truly thankful for the life I have had with all of its twists and turns. Fundamental to my faith is the belief that God loves us all and has a wonderful plan for each of us. If you hang in there through the twists and turns along the way you discover that it is a plan for your good. I’m thankful for my family, friends, and the interesting and at times even exciting life we have in retirement. Who knew?
Our tradition has always been to decorate for Christmas on Thanksgiving Day. There was a good reason: as a pastor of busy, growing churches with lots of preparations required for Christmas, if we didn’t do it on Thanksgiving it wouldn’t get done! Also, we had to get our “money’s worth” out of the tree! When we were in New York and Wisconsin, dreading months and months of snow and cold, I would always take my vacation right after Christmas and we would head off to visit our friends in the US Virgin Islands. Frequently after Christmas Eve services we would go directly to the airport to catch a late night flight to St. Thomas, a flight that was usually empty with lots of room to stretch out and sleep. To arrive in St. Thomas on Christmas morning, and step out of the plane into the humidity and heat after New York and Wisconsin cold was paradise. To this day, my ideal Christmas Day is one spent at the beach!
We love our lives in Panama, but, naturally, nothing is perfect. Last night I was sitting by the fire, sipping a nice Chardonnay from Argentina ($5.75 a bottle), reading a book, when I tasted something a little crunchy in my wine. I was so engrossed in the book I had forgotten the tiny little flies that seem impelled to swim in open glasses of wine. I fished four of the little buggers out and stuck them on my napkin. Two were still alive . . . and drunk as all get out, staggering and falling around the napkin!