Growing up, there is no question that the winter holidays were our favorite: Hanukkah for S, New Year’s for D. Sweets, festive decorations, and lots of presents – it’s easy to win a kid’s heart over with these. Now that we have children of our own, we’ve come to appreciate other holidays a lot more. Any holiday that gives us a three-day weekend is to be celebrated, but the ones, like this past Veterans Day, when we get the day off from work while schools remain open feel particularly valuable. Of the holidays we miss being stateside the most, Thanksgiving tops the list: there is simply no substitute for family and home-cooked, traditional meals when one is serving overseas.
This year, as in years past when we have chanced to be in the United States in November, we planned a double celebration. S’s parents would get her side of the family together over the actual holiday weekend in Bangor. D’s parents would come down to DC the previous weekend for a pre-Thanksgiving celebration. Because D’s sister tends to spend the holiday with her husband’s side of the family, this marked the first time in recent memory that D’s side of the family would celebrate Thanksgiving together.
Unfortunately, D wound up getting completely knocked out by some sort of viral infection and slept through half the meal after a sleepless night marred by cold sweats and fever chills. The illness would dog him all the way to Maine – all in all D spent eight days feeling as if he were submerged in a feverish fog.
S loves Thanksgiving – and especially Thanksgiving food – so much so that she sometimes makes faux Thanksgiving dinner when we are overseas and she can get the right ingredients. She was thrilled to spend a few days with all her relatives, enjoying her favorite dishes, but her excitement for the holiday was easily dwarfed by Munchkin for whom this Thanksgiving represented several holidays rolled into one. Even living in Washington, we rarely see our extended families, so Munchkin got showered with attention and spoiled with gifts.
Spending the extended weekend in Maine, which, unlike Washington, has already received some serious snowfall, also provided a few firsts for Munchkin. He has experienced snow before, of course, but had never been sledding, for example. S’s dad also organized an outing to a hockey game – another first for the little man. The local UMaine Black Bears got destroyed 7-2 by the visiting team, but Munchkin had a great time, spending most of the game glued to the glass, yelling odd encouragements to the players.
Just as the rest of America seemingly used Thanksgiving as a pivot toward the winter holidays, we too have turned our thoughts now toward the end of the year. The Foreign Service does not allow holidays during language training – with one exception: the week between Christmas and New Year’s. We’re taking advantage of this break to plan a solo trip, which will be the first time we travel without the kids since Junebug was born. Much as we had been looking forward to spending time with family this Thanksgiving, we’re looking forward to a bit of alone time even more.