Sunday, 13 October 2013

Learning to be Thankful

Thanksgiving is one of my favourite "holidays."  Over time, I've learned to be more and more thankful of my life, my farmily and my friends. To have a day where we're reminded to be grateful is a wonderful thing.

I don't think I was ever an unthankful/ungrateful child (my mom can correct me if she so chooses to), but I remember the exact moment Thanksgiving gripped my life.

I was 18, in first year university.  I'd chosen to go to a school fairly far away and, despite my school being aghast with my decision, I'd selected an Englih university (not a popular decision at French schools, understandably).  I didn't realize at that time how poor my English skills were.  I was a fantasy reader by then, but I learned English by reading, not by listening.  And, turns out, fantasy vocabulary isn't necessarly the most useful for getting through university (go fig).

My first class, Archaeology 101, almost left me in tears (or at least terrors).  I had absolutely no clue what they'd been talking about. Not one clue.  I couldn't even grab enough words to contextualize the conversation (which is funny - archaeology is all about context!)

I made it through my first six weeks of school, but it was painful.  I didn't know how to craft English essays, I couldn't effectively crack jokes in English (anyone who knows me knows I think I'm funny), and some less informed Canadians made remarks that were less than tasteful about conquest and language barriers.  Those, I understood.

By the time I went home for Thanksgiving, braving the 8-hour train ride just to get to somewhere where I could finally speak and be understood, I was ready to call it quits.  Screw trying to do something more, screw a university degree, and screw not being understood.

I whined (a lot, I imagine) to my big brother, who looked at me with a slighly furrowed brow (or boredom).  When I informed him that I didn't want to go back, he told me to go back. He said that if I didn't want to go back after Christmas, once I'd completed a complete semester, then I could stay home.  But not before I'd really tried.  "Why don't you just embrace the experience instead of fighting against it? See what comes out of it?"  He said something like that, anyway. It struck me as pretty wise for my brother.

I went back ready to embrace, but mostly expecting to struggle.

A few things happened shortly after Thanksgiving that changed everything for me. A teacher with a French Canadian background understood my language barrier and offered me support.  I learned of the writing centre and they provided me with all kinds of resources.

But, most importantly, I met my friends, who are still sisters to this day.  We met quickly, one after the other, for a count of five of us in the end.  One is now the infamous (or long-suffering) Roomy.  The other is my sister-in-law.  Then there's Ren, whose house I'm now sitting in while the turkey cooks. I'm a good turkey watcher. There's one of us still a bit far, Kat.  I see her as often as I can.  She's coming right after Christmas with her husband, to stay for a week.

I'm in Ren's house because most of us are going to gather here, all of our families, to celebrate Thanksgiving.  To break bread and share laughter and stories.  And we do this at Christmas and Easter, too. Not because most of us are religious, but because it's about family, and we understand that bonds, whether blood or not, are maintained with love, friendship, and by remembering to be thankful for the people in our lives.

So, on Thanksgiving, I'm thankful my brother practically threw me into the train.  I'm thankful I met my friends, who are now my family.  I'm thankful that my friends helped me learn and embrace English, which then lead to so many great adventures and people that I've had the chance to meet over the years. I'm thankful  that every new addition to the family, whether husband or child, falls seamlessly into our stride, as though we'd all known each other forever.

But most of all, I'm thankful that I get to sit here, in a good friend's house, excited to see everyone in my family, and think of those who couldn't be with us today, and forge another beautiful memory.

And eat turkey.  Mmmm, turkey...

Happy Thanksgiving!
My group of friends (and their husbands including my brother and one child) at a random gathering last year.  Aren't we just a cute bunch?