My first Thanksgiving dinner [Archives:2008/1219/Community]

December 25 2008

By: Ammar AL-Hawi
[email protected]

Fulbright Scholar in the USA.

Most of you know probably something about the American holiday known as Thanksgiving, but for those who are unfamiliar with this, it is one of the most important and celebrated holidays in both the United States and Canada. Celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States, and on the second Monday of October in Canada, this holiday sees American families and close friends gather together to share a big Thanksgiving feast. Originally, Thanksgiving is a time when the American people give thanks for the harvest and express their gratitude for God's blessings.

I had the opportunity to take part in the Thanksgiving celebration this year. Had you been in the United States on such occasion, you would have come to know how generous and hospitable the American people are! You would have been surprised by the number of Thanksgiving invitations offered to you by different American families. I had been invited for dinner by many of my professors and classmates, and wish I could have accepted them all, not for the sake of eating so much food but to satisfy by desire to experience as many people's Thanksgivings as I could. I gave priority to the first invitation I received, which happened to be that of one of my great professors, Lynn Grantz. She was the first person to invite me to her house for dinner on Thanksgiving. It was my pleasure to accept her invitation, and I looked forward to spending some unforgettable moments with her family at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Professor Grantz knew that I did not yet have a car, so she arranged with her handsome Georgian husband to come over to my apartment and pick me up at 1:30 in the afternoon on November 28th. I was thrilled to see my professor and her family receiving me with hospitality and reverence at their apartment door. I shook hands with them all, and wished them happy Thanksgiving as I was introduced. I met her elderly mother, her gray-bearded uncle-in-law, and her cousin-in-law and his wife who are both in their thirties. She also introduced me to her beautiful little Georgian-like daughter, Kristine, who I later decided must be addicted to watching cartoons on her laptop! They have a small American-looking son called David who, as they told me, does not often make an appearance when strangers are around. Instead, he prefers to hide in his room playing computer games. He was brought out from hiding by his father so that he could greet me, but then quickly disappeared back into his room.

The dinner was served on the table by Professor Grantz and her cousin-in-law's wife. The popular food cooked on Thanksgiving is Turkey. This was to be my first experience of Turkey meat, for I had never tried it in my whole life, and as a result I was unprepared for how delicious it can be. Everyone on the table had his/her own plate which was filled with different kinds of food. Having some drinks in front of each one of us, the dishes were now passed round from one to the other. I didn't hesitate to try every dish that I could find space for on my Chinese plate. I liked the food so much that I kept my spoon and fork too busy most of the time. Our mouths were busy with both food and talk. They asked me about my country and I in return asked them about specific traditions and habits in the United States. Our conversation moved from the Russian-Georgian war, through Barack Obama's victory in the recent Presidential Elections, the U.S financial crisis, onto the recent issue of the Somali piracy in the Gulf of Aden, and finally the terrorist attack in Bombay. All those topics only increased our appetite and added more flavor to our gathering. Having finished the meal, dessert was served. Of all the different kinds of cakes and chocolates that were served I preferred to stick to my favorite: the cheese cake.

I truly felt at home from the very beginning of my encounter with Professor Grantz and her family. Their open talk expressed a warm welcome, and their natural smiles reflected their generous hospitality. I never felt like a stranger in their company. I was happy to listen attentively to their conversations and exchange views on certain contemporary issues with them. No misunderstanding, no miscommunication. The feeling of oneness inspired by Thanksgiving seemed to connect my Yemenism with their Americanism under a roof of understanding and interaction. I could smell the fragrance of my country in the different corners of the house – mainly in the Professor's photographs taken during her two visits to the country in 1987 and 1993, but also in her daughter's blue Yemeni dress, and in the traditional Yemeni Jambia kept in the house. Therefore, there really were good reasons for me to be thankful on Thanksgiving.

I would hereby like to express my thanks to Professor Grantz and her family for having kindly bestowed on me the honor of sharing my first Thanksgiving in the United States with them. I am very thankful to all of them for their hospitality and kindness. Finally, I wish them every happiness and prosperity in their personal and professional lives.