The first Thanksgiving in which I didn’t go home to my family in New Jersey was in 2004. I was working for Bloomberg News in London at the time, and I had to work.
For the first time, I felt homesick for the United States. Having to work on Thanksgiving? Not only that, there were no news stories about busy airports and long lines at the Amtrak station. No Thanksgiving-related food drives for the needy. No children making turkeys out of paper plates and construction paper.
I had a turkey sandwich for lunch, some English afternoon tea and that evening, I set out to have dinner with two American friends, Kris and Mark. It turned out to be a great adventure — starting with a rickshaw ride down Regent Street in London and culminating with wine and the best dinner possible given the lack of American ingredients with which to make it. (They didn’t sell whole turkeys there!) (Story and photos from my blog at that time are at this link.)
The following year, I spent Thanksgiving with families in the Hurricane Katrina zone. I wrote one of the best one-day articles of my career.
Future Thanksgivings were spent with friends in Seattle, or working and eating the office potluck.
This is what life is like for most journalists, and every other type of person whose career takes her far from home. Home becomes a place you create.
This year, I find myself in yet another new city: Minneapolis. Another city that I’d never visited before my job interview. Another city to which I moved not knowing anyone but my employer. Another city that has its own personality and quirks (state fair!) that you just have to visit to understand.
Nearly everyone in my office invited me over for Thanksgiving — they know I am here alone and don’t hesitate to invite a near-stranger over to share the day. How’s that for good will and kindness?
But I do have plans. My friend from Northwestern University hails from here, and she’ll be in town for the holiday and her family has invited me to join in. For that, I’m thankful.
And I’m also thankful for this American tradition. Londoners remarked to me that they don’t have a similar holiday in which everyone gets together and celebrates, no matter what their religion.
Now that I’ve lived on all American coasts, and in seven cities in 10 years, I can tell you — we’re lucky to have a holiday that transcends religion and politics.
Thanksgiving brings out the best in us, and we can be proud of that.