November 24, 2005
Happy Thanksgiving from Brussels, which is where I currently am. I got here last night with my friend Matthew--before that we were in Cork, Ireland for about 20 hours (more on that visit later); before that we were in Paris for about 52 hours (more later on that visit as well); and before that he was hanging out in the luxurious Belgian penthouse apartment he shares with his partner, Leo, while I was spending my time getting to and from first the Detroit Airport and then Aeroport Roissy-Charle de Gaulle.
At the risk of sounding, uh, neither French nor francophilic, I must say that while I find Paris lovely and charming, I still prefer other cities to it, among them London and Amsterdam. I am glad to be in Brussels, partly because it is where Matthew lives and partly because it is not Paris.
Last night at dinner Matthew, Leo and I discussed the fact that the next day would be Thanksgiving. Matthew, who is British, spent a couple of years in Arizona (this is where I met him) and occasionally (OK, frequently) encountered people who were remarkably ignorant about the world at large and not always very tolerant or even interested when it came to other cultures, so he is sensitive to American arrogance and ethnocentrism. I said I planned to have a lovely Thanksgiving, even though neither Leo nor Matt expressed the slightest willlingness to cook a turkey for me. "It won't be Thanksgiving here, Holly," Matt gently explained to me, "because we don't celebrate Thanksgiving."
"But it's still Thanksgiving, even if no one observes it," I said, "just like it's still Chinese New Year whenever it's Chinese New Year [those wacky lunar calendars!] and it's still Boxing Day on December 26, even if no one observes it, and it's still your birthday even if no one remembers or even knew in the first place." (I am sensitive to the importance of observing dates that mean something to you even if the place you're living in doesn't give a shit about them, having spent a couple of years in Asia, and I am also big on expanding the number of days of the calendar you find meaningful, having very much enjoyed learning to celebrate and observe the holidays of other cultures.) I could have added, it's still Veteran's Day even if my employer is not cool enough to observe the federal holiday and give me a day off, and it's still Rosh Hashanah even in a predominantly gentile country like the US. Matt was not entirely convinced by this logic, but I am still thinking with fondness and happiness of all my friends and loved ones in the US going about their preparations for Turkey Day.
This is not to say that I am the least bit regretful that I decided to get the hell out of Dodge and fly across the Atlantic for my Thanksgiving break. I like turkey, but I don't feel that missing one meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie has impoverished my life in the slightest. I vaguely recall that there is a football game on Thanksgiving, but I do my best to ignore that.
And I certainly have options available to me as I attempt to remember what I have to be thankful for, and to express that gratitude in meaningful ways.
Here are some of the things I'm grateful for.
1. My friends, especially Matthew, who is one of my oldest, dearest friends in the entire world, and who has loved me with constance and generosity, and who has forgiven me for some fairly awful things I've done to him, and who has sincerely atoned for the ways he has hurt me. He not only is my friend, but he has worked hard to include me in the larger network of his life, making sure that I know the other people close to him. I feel very, very lucky to know him.
2. My blog, and Jim, who designed it and hosts it, and everyone who reads it--that's right, I'm grateful for YOU. Can you tell that I really do love blogging? I could go on and on about all the great things it does for me, but that should probably be another entry.
3. My family. They're conservative and Mormon and we often disagree about things, but they still love me and have helped me become the person I am, and I think that counts for something.
4. The fact that if you work at it, you do get a bit wiser with age. I'm really grateful not to be as foolish and confused as I was 20 years ago.
5. Beautiful things, not just paintings and sculpture, but ingeniously crafted tables and mantlepieces. The older I get, the more I find I admire things that are not merely lovely, but useful.
7. Having a job and a source of income.
8. Belgian chocolate.
9. Belgian beer.
The last two items are among the things I plan to use in helping me celebrate. In case you didn't know, Belgian beer is among the finest in the world: exceptionally diverse, finely crafted, FREAKIN' DELICIOUS. Last night I had a bottle of something called Corsendonk: Oh, it was lovely! Spicy and complex, dark but not heavy.
OK. It's almost noon here, and I'm still sitting at Matthew's computer in my pajamas, my hair filthy from all that Parisian pollution. He had errands to run and I promised him that when he got back, my hair would be clean and I'd be ready to go out and have fun, so I better get up and get in the shower. (I am also grateful for how I look in the mirror in the bathroom in this place--the bathroom tiles, which cover most of the walls, are a gently glowing bronze, so that the light reflected off them is as flattering as light can possibly be.)
In any event, I must close, and I'll do it by wishing the whole world--not just that big hunk of land in the middle of North America--a very happy Thanksgiving.
Posted by holly at November 24, 2005 4:54 AM