Sunday, November 26, 2006

Giving thanks

As an American in Britain, around this time of year I get asked a lot of questions about Thanksgiving: do people give presents, do you also have Christmas, do you dress up, etc. (the answers by the way are no, yes, and not unless you're a fancy dress fanatic or get it confused with Halloween). In the 6 years I've been living in London I have aimed to carry on the tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving over a meal with friends, and with a few exceptions, I've done a pretty good job, I think. Saturday started off with a trip over to Belsize Park, where I had my first flat in London, to the butchers on England's Lane. Matt really can't understand why I don't find a butcher that's a little closer to where we live, but I like these guys and think their turkeys are good. It was interesting to walk by my old flat and reflect on everything that's gone on in the years since I lived there. From the outside, it looked as it is was still in the same studenty condition, although I loved it when I was there despite the teeny kitchen, hideous bathroom, and creaky floors. I don't think that events would have unfolded in the same way on July 27, 2002 if I hadn't been living there near Primrose Hill, so I'm very happy to have made the decision to live there - I believe it was all linked to leading me and Matt to where we are now.

Back to Thanksgiving...I felt like we were pretty organised this year and the preparation on the day went pretty much to plan. Unusually we seemed to have enough room on the hob and in the oven, although the timing is the most difficult part of it. As is typical, Matt was better than I in the kitchen and kept it all under control. We got to use some of our wedding gifts and I was thoroughly amused and enthralled when we took to making beautiful music off the rims of our wine glasses. We all gave thanks, which is the whole point of it and why I insist that we do it, even though it doesn't really seem like anyone is that keen on that whole part of it. Will was thankful this year for Raina, which is a much better thing to be thankful for than books, although I suppose that people can be thankful for whatever they want to be thankful for and I probably shouldn't have been so harsh on him. As always, I am grateful for the friends that Matt has who have become my friends as well, and for the laughter, support, and fun that they add to our lives. I phoned home to say hi to Mom and Dad; Christmas away from them this year will be pretty tough.
By this point we'd made it to midnight without even really thinking about it (if you read my previous post you'll know that midnight signalled the start of another day's play at the Gabba). Jamie convinced me to throw away 5 quid on a bet that England would win this test (200/1 odds...I'd clearly had too much wine). After that, well...I finally succumbed to a long and tiring week and passed out on the floor. I am always thankful for the chance to have a nice nap!

Who am I?

Last Thursday was a momentous day as it was Thanksgiving in the US (my home country), and the start of the Ashes series in Brisbane (a place I've only seen on a map). An hour before the start of the first test, I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve, filled with anticipation about how the events would unfold overnight Down Under. After he bemoaned that the series was already lost before it even started, my English husband went off for a good night's sleep, while I settled in on the sofa with the aim of watching the action until the stop of play for lunch at 2:00 a.m. our time. England's captain Freddie Flintoff lost the toss, and the rest of the day's play belonged to the Aussies who racked up 346 runs against the loss of only 3 wickets. It wasn't a good day for England. In the early hours of the morning, though, I reflected on the fact that I was more excited about this cricket series between two countries neither of which are my own than about a national holiday in my home country. As the majority of the country slept I couldn't help think of Jean Valjean's famous questioning, "Who am I?" and wondering the same thing about myself. To summarise why it's so bizarre that I like cricket, I'll give you two words: American woman (good song, by the way!). 4 or 5 years ago I couldn't have told you what a yorker was, or how many runs a team got if the little red ball rolled to the edge of the boundary (and I wouldn't have known it was called the boundary either), and why the heck the guys constantly rub the ball down the side of their white trouser legs. But living in England and getting wrapped up in the thrilling Ashes series last year changed all that. Along with helpful tutoring by Matt throughout the 4 years we've been together, I now understand the finer points of why generally, the English might hope for rain in a 5-day test, or the rules of being called out leg before wicket. So, despite not being a Pommie or an Aussie, I stayed up to watch the cricket. And not only did I enjoy it, but I also understood it and recognised that the reasons I was staying up were because I love competition and tradition, both of which are in abundance in this case.

Things were a bit different the next morning when I overslept my alarm and was half an hour late to my personal training appointment. Somehow I summoned the energy again for a second night of cricket action, but when I had to go to the doctor on Friday with a viral infection, I decided I also should be fair to myself and go to bed at a normal time throughout the rest of the series. After all, there was Thanksgiving to plan for on Saturday...