Monday, December 1, 2014

The Great Canadian American Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays about which I have been ambivalent over the years. When I was quite young, the extended Broom family would gather on that day. Then, my grandpa died, my grandmother moved away and then we moved away. We then had Thanksgiving on our own. The last time was in 1970, for my parents separated the following summer.

After that, Thanksgiving was greatly reduced in importance in our family. My father moved to Ohio, and some Thanksgivings, particularly when I was in college, would find me and my little sister on the road to or from Ohio. And so it continued until my mission.

Presbyterian Church in Fort Langley in continuous use since its construction in 1885

My most memorable Thanksgiving was probably the one I experienced while on my mission in France. It had been arranged that my companion and I would travel from Brest to Rennes. Another couple of elders would travel from L'Orient, another city in Brittany, and we would meet the six sisters from Rennes at the chapel there. 

Fortunately, the sister missionaries would be taking care of most of the meal. I would bring a pumpkin pie, and (fortunately, as it turned out) another elder would bring an apple pie.

A few days before Thanksgiving, one of our "investigators" fell out of a second or third story window in his dodgy apartment in an old part of Brest and died. We were contacted and asked to conduct the "funeral." There were two other mourners - Jacqui's sister and another friend. It was raining. Jacqui was buried in a wooden box. We had witnessed the placement of the body in said box. It was one of the most depressing days of my life to that date. 

The pumpkin pie? I decided I would bring a pumpkin pie, even though there was no such thing as canned pumpkin in France or frozen pie shells or even Crisco shortening. I had found a recipe at a member’s house in Nantes that was based on French ingredients, so I decided to give it a try. I didn’t know at the time that one could make a pie crust from butter – all I had ever been exposed to were Crisco crusts – so I went to a market and bought some lard to make the crust. Then I bought a pumpkin to cook up. It was a disaster.  The crust tasted terrible, the pumpkin filling was all stringy and the spices were weird. Like I said, thank goodness for the apple pie from L'Orient.

Out for a walk

Nathan and Hazel

After I came home from my mission, I got married and moved to Vancouver. I learned that Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving the second weekend in October because - as someone once quipped in a talk in our student ward in Vancouver - "most Canadians don't have much to be grateful for in late November." 

There were extended family get-togethers for Canadian Thanksgiving - as well as other holidays  - during the ten years we lived in Vancouver. And I was grateful for the opportunities these get-togethers presented for our older children to play with cousins and to experience aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-aunts and -uncles, etc. 

But when it came to American Thanksgiving, there was always an element of artificiality. I worked on Thanksgiving. Yes, we could have a turkey dinner in the evening (thankfulness to my former wife for preparing the meal), we could try to "keep the tradition alive" for my children. But it wasn't the same.

Hazel and her daddy, Cary

And that's the message for this year's Thanksgiving. It isn't the same. But yet it is gloriously wonderful. Two gay dads with our son come to celebrate the holiday in Canada with our daughter, her daughter and her husband. It isn't "traditional" in any way. (But who decides what "tradition" is?) But you know what? We get to cut through the crap and simply enjoy a meal together. So what if the side dishes come from Honey-Baked Ham and Whole Foods? So what if we don't use Great-Aunt Betty's dishes? So what? So what? So what?

Hazel wants her bow back from Papa Mark. He's reluctant to give it up.

Forget the Pilgrims and all that crap. Love is love is love. Thanksgiving merely provides the opportunity to share in that love. To bask in the warmth of authenticity.

It was a beautiful day. The Broom-Koepke-Stewart Great Canadian American Thanksgiving.

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