On November 25th, 2011 I celebrated my first holiday away from home. I wasn't curled up by the fire sipping sparkling apple cider and eating my Grammy's homemade cranberry sauce by the spoonful. Instead, I was sweating head-to-toe while sitting with a bunch of strangers in the middle of Ethiopia. A group of Americans had gathered to celebrate the holiday, but there had been a power outage, so we couldn't finish cooking the meal. Plus turkey is practically impossible to import into Ethiopia. It was a patchwork Thanksgiving to say the least.
Still, as we sat on the floor with traditional injera and wat on one side of the plate and mashed potatoes on the other I realized something; I had never before been as grateful as I was in that moment.
There's something about celebrating the holidays half way around the world that makes you think about everything you have. I've done it twice. Once in Ethiopia and once in Ghana. Last year I continued my trend of enjoying my Thanksgiving anywhere that wasn't home and stayed in New York City.
This year I had no excuse to stay away. I graduated from NYU in May, finished my recent international adventure in July, and got back from my short escapade to the East Coast in early November. I am not leaving for my next trip until January so there was no doubt about it: I was to be home for the holidays.
My insatiable wanderlust has created a rocky relationship between my hometown and me. When I was a kid I thought of it as a cage; it was the one thing standing between me and the world. I have been gone from Danville long enough that I have started to enjoy coming back, but there's still a part of me that feels that childhood itch whenever I am here for too long.
On Thanksgiving morning that itch was nowhere to be found. I watched my mom dance across the family room singing her favorite Christmas carol and felt giddy with joy to be in a house so full of love. We drove to my Grammy and Pappap's house where we played cards, worked on a puzzle, and laughed our heads off. Other than my brother being across the country, it was the perfect holiday. Eventually we sat down for Thanksgiving Dinner and as I looked around the table at my sister, mom, dad, and all four grandparents, I realized for the gazillionth how truly blessed I am.
Chances are I will spend more holidays abroad in the future. Who knows... if all goes as planned I will be in Scotland next year. But things rarely go as planned. I don't know how many more years I will get to celebrate the holiday season at home. What I do know is that I am so grateful for the love and joy my family brought me this year.