Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

Beautiful at 200

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

Emma Willard School Bicentennial

In 1814 Emma Hart Willard opened a boarding school for young women in her home in Middlebury, Vermont. Willard had already been teaching young women for a number of years in schools run by other educators, and she believed her students were capable of mastering a more challenging curriculum than they were generally offered.

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Her first successful boarding school was not enough to satisfy Willard’s desire to educate young women to a higher standard.

By 1819 Emma Willard was campaigning to establish a women’s seminary in New York State that would be publicly funded, as comparable men’s schools were. Willard wrote A Plan for Improving Female Education, and spoke to the New York State legislature, saying the problem with existing women’s education was that the objective “has been too exclusively directed to fit them for displaying to advantage the charms of youth and beauty” and that “the taste of men, whatever it might happen to be, has been made into a standard for the formation of the female character.”

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In 1821 The Troy Female Seminary, for day and boarding students, opened for the business of serious education. It was the first school in the United States to offer higher education to women. The curriculum included the subjects that Willard had been committed to, and had argued for: mathematics, philosophy, geography, history, and science. The Troy Female Seminary under Emma Willard’s guidance was a success, and by 1831 had enrolled over 300 students. In 1895 The Troy Female Seminary was renamed in Emma Willard’s honor.

In 1910 the school moved to a stunning new campus being built on Mount Ida.

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I think it remains one of the most beautiful high school campuses in existence.

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Emma’s vision, supported and enlarged by the work of all who have come since, has certainly stood the test of time. In fact, 2014 sees the Bicentennial of the school’s founding.

Definitely time for a party. In a magical revival tent perhaps.

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By day, the tent was a place for tradition, speeches, poetry and inspiration.

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By night, a super slick urban nightclub, for conversation, dining, drinks, and dancing…

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Emma, you threw yourself one heck of a party. Yes, fun was had. Lots and lots of fun.

Gals, it was great to see you all, and to celebrate our education and ongoing friendships.

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Emma, you look beautiful at 200.

Tricentennial anyone?

 

 

 

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A Child At Christmas

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

The old song says that everyone’s a child at Christmas.

I am glad to hear someone else say that.

This year (and, okay, not for the first time), I wondered, while getting out the worn and battered boxes that store my decades-worth of Christmas decorations, whether it was time to grow up about my Christmas decorating.

I mean, I began my Christmas collection that first year we were married, in Palo Alto, when we did not have the vacation days or the financial resources to come ‘home’ to the East Coast for Christmas with our families. We stayed put and had our first Christmas, and our first Christmas decorations.

I started decorating the stair railing in the first house we owned, when we suddenly had a staircase. I came up with a scheme of green garlands, hung with gingerbread and peppermint ornaments. The children were still in early single digits ages then, back in the early 1990′s. Are we too adult for these themes now?

Is there a maturity curve to Christmas decorations?

And my Christmas dining table… Hmmm. It generally starts out as a small forest of mini Christmas trees, and as the Day approaches, it is increasingly populated by reindeer, and Santa, and Mrs. Claus. Have we outgrown the North Pole centerpiece?

Around the house, there are Santas and snowmen on the powder room vanity, a sleigh and reindeer atop the living room desk, polar bears with bells peeking out from under the front hall table plant….

Well, I have collected Christmas decorations with more gravitas over the years as well, a grim-faced Nutcracker with a stylish fur hat,

a seriously elegant Russian Santa dusted with just the perfect frosting of crystal glitter,

and an outstanding collection of Christopher Radko ornaments for the tree and the mantelpieces.

Is it time to discipline myself to these more restrained and adult decorations?

Last weekend the ‘kids’ helped me put up the tree, and I kept on decorating. Since then, I have been wondering.

Then, this past week, December guests have been coming to the apartment, committee members for an event planning meeting, and friends stopping by to pick me up before heading out, then My Husband’s cousins and our children for a festive weekend lunch.

And they all oohed and aaahed, over the table centerpiece with its reindeer, and my matching reindeer napkins, over the Radko bedecked tree, over the Santas tucked into corners of the desk, and even those on the counter in the powder room.

The ‘Children’ have visited, and they have sat in the armchairs by the Christmas tree, the ones with the holiday needle point pillows,

checking emails and text messages on their phones and tablets, but also taking stock of and remembering our family Christmas history, through the decorations.

And I realized that they all, friends, family and children alike, love my ‘childish’ holiday themes, and my aging collection of Christmas ornaments and decorations. They enjoy being in my house, a holiday decorated house, soaking in the ready-for-Christmas spirit that ornaments and decorations and hospitality (and a little Christmas baking) can genuinely create.

There are very few things that I miss about life in the suburbs, but being in other people’s decorated homes before Christmas is definitely one of them. Hosts and Hostesses in the suburbs are really good about holiday parties in their own homes. In the city, people tend to share the holidays in more public spaces, attending Christmas parties in clubs, enjoying seasonal events in hotels, or actually making trips to family homes to enjoy the Christmas decorations – in the suburbs.

In the city you can still enjoy other people’s decorations, just on the outside of their houses.

I bet you love them too, other people’s decorations, I mean. The friend who has a collection of over a hundred Nutcrackers to display on her mantles and windowsills, or the friend with Santas of every possible description on her bookshelves, sideboard and living room tables, maybe the home with a collection of secret Santa mice tucked away everywhere for you (I mean, the children) to find. In my memory one of the most fabulous experiences was always my friend Erika’s mythical Radko tree, almost two stories tall, which she decorated from a scaffold every year. It was laden with glass garlands, and tree toppers, and glass balls, and ornaments of every possible description. It took your breath away. An heirloom tree.

So here I am, back to my decades worth of child-inspired Christmas decorating. A house full of ornaments, and Santas, and faux-peppermint candies, and whimsy, and history. A house to welcome guests, and family, at Christmas. It turns out it’s a nice gift to be able to share.

The holiday spirit, for the child in all of us, at Christmas.

‘Tis the season.

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Head of the Charles Regatta 2013

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

We just had a perfect Columbus Day family weekend in Nantucket.

And then again this past weekend Boston really put on a show. Yes, it was the Head of the Charles Regatta. Over 9,000 athletes compete in this two day event, and over 300,000 spectators come out to watch the boats duel for fastest times down the three mile course on the Charles River. Boston looked its very best, aglow with the splendor of autumn. That’s a word I hang onto, after twelve years in Britain. ‘Autumn’ resonates. The word choice of Keats. Autumn’s connotations are vast and subtle, much more than just the season of fall.

We were already giddy with victory, here in Boston, following the Red Sox win over Detroit, which made Boston’s home town team American League Champions again, and secured their place in the World Series. From worst to first. Yes, we woke up feeling happy, on a beautiful October morning.

All along the river the spectators gathered to enjoy a day of sport.

It’s a long course for the rowers, and a long course for spectators. I have been at the Head of the Charles Regatta every year for the past eight years, and it seems to me that I always walk for hours, from the T to the riverbank, from bridge to bridge for varied vantage points, from boathouse to boathouse to hospitality tent, to meet up with friends. My friends, The Boy’s friends from high school and college rowing, their parents, past crew tent partners, a combination of the above. But on a weekend like this past one, it is a dazzling delight to walk along the river,

Taking in the thrill of competition, the history of the event and of the different boathouses, the communal energy of the massing crowds, the drop dead beauty of autumn trees in Massachusetts.

The Head of the Charles is a spectacle put on by both Mother Nature and man.

If you are like me, and carry your camera at all times, just in case you see something wonderful,

it is pretty hard not to stop every hundred yards along the riverbank,

to capture another amazing image.

Rowing is a sport of athletic excellence, precise equipment and constant industry. There are always shells being carried to and from the river, or back to their trailers, rowers with arms full of blades, athletes warming up on ergs, teams jogging to keep themselves ready. And that’s when they are not on the water.

This year, in 2013, with warm weather and warm water, and the wind in the right quadrant, seventeen course records were broken on the first day of competition.

“My” teams, from The Boy’s days in College-ville, didn’t win or set new records, but they rowed damn well.

And I spent two days watching the thrills,

and the almost spills, of ferocious competition.

All the while doing homage to the splendors of autumn,

amidst the cathedral of trees.

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Gift

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

A dear friend called me to say that she and her husband would be away for the coming Columbus Day weekend. She was traveling to London with her son; her husband had decided to attend a wedding in Washington. As a result, their little house in Nantucket would be empty over Columbus Day weekend.

“It is so beautiful there this time of year”, she said, “it’s a shame to have the house sitting empty. So would you like to go, and take your family? Take the dog. Don’t even feel like you have to tell me now. Just go if you can.”

That’s a dear friend.

An October weekend in Nantucket. I haven’t been there in the autumn for years. (Okay, maybe even for decades.)

Of course we said yes. Yes, from the ‘children’, from My Husband, from The Dog, and from me. The weekend was about as perfect as it gets.

How familiar and beloved Nantucket seemed, and yet how different in this unfamiliar season. We visited as many favorite places as possible, most of them out of doors. A morning walk in Ram’s Pasture, a daily summer  favorite activity with my Mother,

now I found the lower loop from Clark’s Cove colored in a fall palette, all gold and russet. In place of summer’s green and blue.

Up over the hill, sere and splendid,

variations on summer’s theme.

We ventured out on new expeditions as well, to Altar Rock, where we once came with the children to pick blueberries.

And out onto the moors, tinted with subtle shades under a cloudless sky.

Main Street felt different too, leaves going gold, chrysanthemums in the memorial planter in place of summer’s red geraniums.

We visited the Yacht Club to enjoy the new Burgee Bar,

and the Patriots on wide screen TV.

The Dog was in heaven to be back in Nantucket, outdoors with us for breakfast,

remembering youthful days, and enjoying a chance to be back in the sea.

The Dog and I even rolled out of bed in the dark one morning over the long weekend, just to be out in the air, near the water, to watch the sun rise.

It was peaceful magic, waiting for the sun to crest the horizon,

even as the growing light picked out details of ship hull, masts, and distant lighthouse.

When the sun finally appeared above the dark horizon, after all that anticipation,

it was something akin to a religious experience.

Then The Dog remembered that he needed his breakfast.

So, yes,

Nantucket in October.

A Gift from a friend.

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Back in Black

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Her wonderful daughters took their turns at the lectern, sad but poised, clad in back dresses that were too stark, and yet became their youth.

They shared loving remembrances of their Mother, telling stories that were very personal, that I had never heard before, and that yet rang true to everything I knew about their Mother.

Her eldest daughter told the story of a summer’s afternoon off the North Fork of Long Island, when their Mom, for most of her life a single mother, had been piloting her beloved motorboat, with just her two young daughters for passengers. Their Mom suddenly remembered a sand cliff she had climbed as a child years ago with all of her brothers. She was sure she could take them back there, and they could climb it together, and then run down. It would be fun. Sure enough, she found the cove, and the sandy cliff. They moored the boat, and began to climb up together. It took some time. Once they’d reached the top, they all looked back down the steep face of the cliff, at the seemingly tiny boat anchored far below. “It’s so steep,” they said to their Mom, and secretly they believed she felt the same. “But it will be fun,” she said, standing at the top of the cliff in her bikini. “I’m scared,” said her daughter. “Let’s be brave,” said her Mom, “we will run down. It will be like flying.” “But I’m scared,” said her daughter. “That’s when people really are brave,” her Mom said, “when they are afraid, and they do things anyway. Hold my hands.” And they held her hands, and they all jumped over the edge, and they ran down the sand cliff screaming, legs going pell mell. They arrived at the bottom with their hearts pounding, and their laughter spilling over. “It was almost as good as flying,” her daughter remembers.

The younger daughter took her turn. “I remember one winter, when it was snowing really hard,” she says. Her Mom was outside shovelling the walk, and keeping the driveway clear so she could get them both to school and herself to work. “She told me to grab the little shovel, and come out to join her. I had my little mittens on, and my hat tied under my chin. She made a game of it, imagining a story around us. We were pioneer women, she said, out on the prairie. We were strong and tough minded, and we could move all the snow. I think of that sometimes still,” she said, “we are pioneer women.”

These memories were perfect metaphors to illustrate my friend’s life. She must have felt like a pioneer woman indeed, twice divorced, working full time as a lawyer, and raising three children pretty much on her own.

She proved that she was more than brave after she was diagnosed with a glioblastoma. The doctors gave her six to nine months to live. She was determined to see her youngest child graduate from high school. She would need to survive at least two years.

He graduated from high school the first weekend of June. She attended the ceremony on a gurney, with a fresh pedicure.

She died nine days later. She was 57.

I hope it was like stepping over the edge into air, and running down the face of the sand cliff, almost as good as flying.

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Emma

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Reunions.

Do you go back?

I’ll be honest. I have not been a great Re-uner  myself. But I thought I should give this one a try.

40 years.

Emma looks great. In fact, it crossed my mind while I was there that the Emma Willard campus is more beautiful than we are. Almost.

It is an ‘interesting’ experience, heading back to a boarding school you attended 40 years ago. A school where you spent three years of your teenaged life, from ages 14 to 17.

14 to 17. Yes, in many ways we grown and capable, and yet we were so, so young, looking back. High school, and boarding school, and the ’70′s. It was such a period of transition; years of angst and empowerment both.

Our immediate context was hippies to prototypical preppies. Landlubber jeans and bell bottoms, to painter’s pants and Levis 501′s. Hiking boots, clogs and Dr. Scholl’s to Kork-Ease’s platform sandals. Flannel shirts and sweater vests to Fair Isle sweaters. Indian print t-shirts, and embroidered peasant blouses. 13 button wool sailor pants from the Army Navy Surplus stores, and 50′s circle skirts from Goodwill. Layla, The Dead and Bread. The Firesign Theater. All ‘vintage’ now, as we are.

(Not to mention The Vietnam War, The Pentagon Papers, Nixon in China, the voting age to 18, Watergate, and Roe v. Wade.)

In those years, you knew your classmates by the childhood nicknames they no longer use. You have to remind yourself, case by case, if you’re allowed to call out “Kitty”, or “Bucko”, or “Dimmie.” Sometimes you are allowed, because you knew them when…

But here’s the amazing thing, having just spent three days and two nights in the company of those supposedly vanished girls: we were then who we are now. The consistency of personalities and outlook is astonishing to me.

The optimists are optimistic. The critics are critical. The elusive are still pretty darn hard to pin down.

Here’s the thing, ladies. You are great company. As you were then, as you are now. You are honest. You are brave. There was sadness and joy in the sharing.  And empathy, understanding, encouragement, approval, and safety. There was love.

I enjoyed my time with you.

I may turn into a re-uner after all.

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O Canada!

Friday, August 10th, 2012

My good friend Kyle from business school and her architect husband David have been inviting us to come visit them and their family in Ottawa for the past several years. “Come skiing, come play tennis, come play golf!” they say. Finally this summer we were able to accept their flattering and long-standing invitation. Yes, we were coming! And we would drive… My husband grew up in Ohio and spent his boyhood summers on Cape Cod, so the thought of a seven hour drive didn’t phase him one bit.

We wound our way northward through some recently visited territory, back up through New Hampshire and into northern Vermont on Route 89, through inspirational forested mountains that provide magnificent blue-green vistas at every turn of the road. The aptly named Green Mountain range is a very beautiful part of the world.

We crossed into Canada (Customs and passports at the border) from Phillipsburg, Vermont, and found ourselves in Phillipsburg, Quebec. All the signs in Canada (Quebec especially) are bi-lingual, so you can immediately pretend to test out your high school French. North of the border, counter-intuitively for me, you leave the fastness of the blue-green mountain aeries, and emerge onto a great agrarian plain. You find yourself suddenly surrounded by quaint farmhouses with Victorian gingerbread trim, handsome painted barns, clusters of silver silos, and impressive fields planted with alternating stripes of corn, wheat and soybeans that stretch towards a distant horizon.

Quebec farmland eventually gave way to highways leading into the tangle of Montreal commuting traffic. We didn’t linger, but continued westward towards Ontario. Along the highway, we began to see yellow hazard signs, warning of moose crossing.

We turned off of Highway 417 before reaching downtown Ottawa, and headed into the leafy preserve of Rockliffe Park, home, in this international capital city, to many official Embassy Residences, as well as to David and Kyle.

That of the American Ambassador, and his Danish counterpart, for instance.

On Saturday morning we headed into Ottawa, to the ByWard Market, to shop for our breakfast.

It was difficult not to get distracted… Then, after a leisurely breakfast of freshly ground coffee, pain au chocolat and fresh berries, we headed back into Ottawa (just a 12 minute drive!) to tour the beautiful city.

David made sure to give us the architect’s tour of Ottawa. Ottawa is a distinctly novel combination of architectural influences and periods. Influences both old,

and new,

(How I wish I had pictures of the starkly modern Embassy of Saudi Arabia, by Canadian architect Arthur Erikson, which sits next to the stunning Aga Khan Foundation’s Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat designed by celebrated Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki . But we saw these in passing from the car.)

And influences French,

and British.

The spectacular Parliament Square

sits atop a rocky outcrop, high above the mighty Ottawa River, and the engineering wonder of the locks of the Rideau Canal.

The interior of the Canadian Parliament Building is just as spectacular as the exterior.

Exhausted by all this culture, we headed back to the ByWard Market,

to shop for dinner.

Once home with the groceries, Kyle and I went for a dizzying bike ride from Rockliffe Park down along the mighty Ottawa River, with the sun in our faces and the wind in our hair.

After dinner, let’s be honest, we sat back and watched the London 2012 Olympics, wishing some sporting success for all of our favorite countries: the USA, Britain and Canada!

Sunday brought more mind expanding experiences. The stunning views of Parliament Square from across the river in Gatineau, Quebec, from the plaza fronting the fascinating Museum of Civilization, designed by Douglas Cardinal.

Inside the Museum of Civilization are wonders aboriginal, architectural and national.

We may have played a round of golf later that afternoon, at The Royal Ottawa Golf Club…..

By then I was pretty tired. Our round of eighteen holes was fun, and hot, and spent in great company. That’s about all that is worth remembering.

We have been invited to come back to Ottawa, perhaps in winter, to try our hand at downhill and cross country skiing, and…

I do know Kyle and David will keep us very busy, and feed us extremely well!

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Girls’ Weekend

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

What do you do on a girls’ weekend in Nantucket?

Tour the island together.

Enjoy the June roses.

Visit the shops.

Enjoy a glass of Prosecco at The Galley….

followed by a lobster dinner.

Share your stories.

Maybe cry a little.

Is that what the guys do, on their weekends away?

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Recipe Sharing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Phew. I have just about survived the Christmas holidays.

One of the great things about holidays is the all special foods you serve – the treasured recipes you make for your family year after year. I am sure your family has their favorites from your recipe box. Val, one of my dog walking pals, actually keeps her Christmas menu year to year, written out on index cards, as a guideline and reminder for the following season. There must be a few tweaks to Val’s menu cards, and the odd addition to the recipe line up year in year out, but apparently her family looks forward to their annual Christmas food traditions. We are much the same in our family; when Christmas comes, my grown children anticipate the beloved Christmas pancakes, the standing rib roast with Yorkshire Pudding, the ‘more-ish’ Rigatoni al Forno, and the Gateau Rolla (or Meringue Layer Cake), which I have recently re-christened Chocolate Pavlova.

So recipes are very much on my mind at the moment.

In the run up to the holidays I observed several instances of Recipe misbehavior. The memories are troubling. What, you say?

You heard me. People – friends – behaving badly, extremely badly, over the subject of sharing recipes, and then giving credit, or not giving credit for those recipes. Say again?

Perhaps I should quote you a few instances.

My back door neighbor Allison’s sister-in-law, a.k.a. Aunt Susie,  makes a mean chili, or so I had always been told.  But Aunt Susie would not share her chili recipe. For years and years. Even when asked repeatedly by her own family members. Over time this made for bad feeling all around. This past fall Allison finally convinced her sister-in-law to share the secrets of her famous Taco Chili. And, given what Allison perceived as past miserly behavior on behalf of her sister-in-law, she promptly shared the recipe with all of us in the dog walking group. I share it with you. Allison did give credit where she felt credit was due, and named the recipe “Aunt Susie’s Most Awesome Taco Chili.” Good recipe behavior? Or bad recipe behavior?

Myung, a member of my Book Group, has a delicious family recipe for Korean Short Ribs. She asks her favorite butcher cut the ribs across several bones, so they look like very thin chops, and then treats them with a special herb, garlic and soy sauce marinade (actually Memmi, which she says is sweeter) before cooking. She shared her family recipe with her sister-in-law (who is not Korean). Often complimented on Myung’s short ribs marinade, her sister-in-law decided to contribute Myung’s recipe to a regional cookbook – under her own name. Good recipe behavior? Bad recipe behavior?

I attended a coffee morning pot luck, and as instructed, brought along a baked good to share. A friend, wife of My Husband’s close work colleague, was wild about the Strawberry Pizza, and asked me if she could have ‘my’ recipe. I said of course. I asked if she would swap it for the recipe to her lemon curd squares. She agreed. I sent her my Strawberry Pizza recipe. She never sent me anything.

Another friend, Kristen, who is an inventive and generous cook, posts almost everything she cooks on her blog, Kristen in London. She accompanies her recipes with mouth-watering photos of the finished product, and writes about food with enough warmth and encouragement to convince even the most timid cook to take a risk and make the effort towards a new seasonal dish. She serves up her recipes to friends and readers alike with the gracious flourish of a wonderful hostess offering a beautifully plated dinner to a welcome guest at her table.

I grew up as one of four sisters, with a Mother who loves to cook, to experiment with new recipes and to entertain around the dinner table. Food in her household is a healthful art form, and is seen as an opportunity to gather friends and family around the table for company and conversation. Her recipes are always mine for the asking. In fact, as a young professional and then as a young wife, I would frequently phone my own Dial-a-Mom for last minute recipe suggestions, advice or reassurance. Be a recipe Scrooge? Unthinkable.

What is your opinion? Do you share your recipes? Squirrel them away in secrecy? Give credit when someone gifts you with their favorite recipe?

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Thanks Given

Friday, November 25th, 2011

Three generations. Seven families. One day of Thanks.

I missed this day, the actual Thursday of Thanksgiving, during the twelve years we lived in London. Oh, we celebrated Thanksgiving sure enough. On Sunday afternoon, on the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Unimaginable, right? In America of course Thanksgiving Thursday is a holiday. A sacrosanct day off from work and school both. Increasingly, so is the Wednesday before and the Friday after, creating a possible five day mini-holiday. Christmas without the presents, some friends say.

The traditional long weekend of Thanksgiving in America certainly creates an island of time to relax, to overeat perhaps, but also to linger in the kitchen, around the table, over the pie crusts, with friends and family. To gather with many generations, for a tradition of people as well as food.

Pretty obvious, but consider: in the UK Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday. What does that mean, to an American family living in London? The children are in school that Thursday, the adults are at work, and relatives and friends are probably far away. Some American families still celebrate on Thursday, cooking the traditional meal, or a version thereof, for a late weekday dinner. There is no loitering pre-meal and pre-game in the kitchen, living room or den of course. Perhaps the cooking is rushed, and it makes for a late night at the dinner table for school age children.

I have always loved the build up to Thanksgiving, the preparatory shopping, the anticipation of menu planning. So I opted for a Thanksgiving Sunday lunch, when the family could be home in the house, inhaling eau de turkey, and scraping the mashed potato bowl as I cooked.

Sunday lunch is an established tradition in the UK. Families and friends often gather for a roast, a leisurely meal, a post-prandial walk in the park. So Thanksgiving fits nicely into this construct, if shorn of its pairing with major travel, extended family and American football.

It was always a challenge shopping for an American Thanksgiving in London. The Brits are great on turkey. In fact turkey often forms the centerpiece of the traditional Christmas menu in the UK. Remember Bob Cratchit and Mr. Scrooge? And there is always a plenitude of potatoes. But sweet potatoes? Pumpkin pie filling? Cranberry sauce? Especially in 1996, the year that we arrived in London.

Strange to think that these staples of our Thanksgiving menu should be considered imported foods in the UK. In the early days I would make my way to Partridge’s, in the King’s Road (note ‘in’ the King’s Road vs. on the road. British usage…) and pay a fortune for Libby’s canned pumpkin, Ocean Spray Cranberry sauce, Nestle’s Chocolate Chips, and whatever else my homesick heart craved. Over the years, with the growth of the American expat community in London, and the increased familiarity with the American Thanksgiving tradition, many of these foodstuffs, or their British equivalent, became more readily (and inexpensively) available. (Should I mention the time – perhaps not – when I bought the kids a box of Lucky Charms at Partridge’s? And My Husband saw the price in pounds, converted it, and cried, “Are we really eating seven dollar cereal?! Seven dollar cereal?!”)

I ordered my annual Thanksgiving turkey from Lidgate the Butcher on Holland Park Avenue, W11. The men and women behind the glass counters in Lidgate’s still wear white butcher’s aprons over green striped shirts, and straw boaters with a green ribbon band. I always purchased a Kelly Bronze Turkey- an old fashioned American bird breed in fact – from Mr. Lidgate. When you ordered from the shop (note shop – not store – in the UK) they would give you a number for your order, the number of the page within the number of the order book in which they wrote your order. Pity those who arrived to stand in line in the shop for their holiday order without their order number. Christmas time (turkey season and a British national holiday remember) was much worse, and the line for pick-ups and new orders at Lidgate’s snaked out the front door, down the sidewalk and around the corner – on Christmas Eve, and even on Christmas Eve Eve. Dickensian indeed.

We shared Thanksgiving with my sister and her family in London, and it turned out that I – a mere sister in the extended family at home – was old enough to cook the Thanksgiving meal.  When we began celebrating together in 1996 the children – all the cousins – were small, and our dining room easily encompassed all of them. As the years passed and the children grew to youths, and then to young adults, the capacity of the dining room was strained, and we sat shoulder to shoulder, barely fitting, in a cramped but cozy solidarity. I remember looking around that table, wondering what had happened to those cherub cheeked children. Had it only been a few years?

Over the years in London we also adopted quite a few friends and lonely Americans for the Thanksgiving meal. The children’s American friends from boarding school for instance, or graduate students studying at Oxford or Cambridge, too far from home to travel back for what was considered a regular weekend. They were thrilled to be in a home, seated at a crowded table, digging into a plate of ‘foreign’ i.e. American food. A plateful of turkey and the trimmings, a plate of pecan or pumpkin pie, a taste of home. Of course, we often adopt friends and neighbors and travelers and stray students for the Thanksgiving meal at ‘home’ in the US. But Thanksgiving overseas, well, perhaps you do feel another level of rescue and national identity is offered.

Now we are back ‘home’ in the US, and spending Thanksgiving at Grandmommy’s, with three generations, and seven families, for one day of Thanks. Thanks Given.

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