On November 22nd, the day after we ventured to Stokesay Castle, we were planning to go to Wolverhampton with Will and Nila, our fellow American couple at our church. They were sweet enough to invite us to the Thanksgiving celebrations hosted by some of their other American friends who they work with, and we were glad to accept the invitation.
After church, we hopped in their car (the first time we'd been in a car that wasn't a taxi in nearly three months!) and headed to Wolverhampton. It was a bit strange being on the wrong side of the motorway, but mostly because it felt oddly similar to freeways back home. While we were a bit nervous to eat a lengthy meal in a house of people we had never met, it was also a little bit exciting to be in an actual house - again, we hadn't been in a house since we left the States. Oh, the glory of space! And this house used to belong to people who owned a catering company so it actually had two kitchens. It was fantastic!
Our fears were soon dispelled as we got to chat with our lovely hosts and the other guests. The evening was filled with great conversation, wonderful company, fantastic food and wine - and plenty of it, and even some American football. It was the weirdest and best thing to be in a room with more Americans than I could count on one hand, and we all had some bonding moments after we recounted story after story of the woes of living in the West Midlands, accompanied by other nightmarish stories about the process of moving overseas. Ah, the camaraderie between expats - it's a glorious thing! There weren't only Americans in the house, though, and there were at least four nationalities that Thanksgiving feast in England. Pretty neat if you ask me. When Will and Nila dropped us off back at our flat, we came home with full bellies and full hearts. If that doesn't make you feel at home in a foreign place, I don't know what will.
Turkey from the deli, croissant rolls, homemade cranberry sauce, roasted veggies, and baked sweet potatoes with brown sugar and marshmallows (we ended up roasting them in the over for the finishing touch) decorated our bedroom desk. I never ever buy soda, but I couldn't resist the taste of home in the form of Coca-Cola that day.
We ate nearly everything in glorious Thanksgiving Day fashion, and we were so full that we changed into our pajama pants before dessert - just the way it should be. Homemade pumpkin pie (with canned pumpkin that was far too expensive) was consumed with vanilla ice cream (we miss Blue Bell!) because Cool Whip doesn't exist here, and I don't own a beater or mixer with which to whip (say that ten times fast); Lord knows I was not whipping cream by hand... no sir.
I still get a bit sad thinking about that tumultuous time period. Thanksgiving was really tough to get through for a lot of reasons, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that something so near and dear to us doesn't even exist here. To the UK, that was just another Thursday. Patrick had rehearsal until 7:00pm that night, meanwhile all our friends and family had been celebrating together - without us. Of course without us. It's not a bitter feeling of being left out, but a sadness that seeps in knowing that you're missing out, knowing that life and traditions still go on without you. Some of our wonderful friends and family sent us pictures and videos all day long, which actually eased the pain quite a bit - we were able to be "involved" in their celebrations even from so far away. In the end, though, our little UK celebrations were enough to satisfy our wary and homesick hearts for the time being.