Bea climbs into my car and notices the foil-covered trays in the back seat. “What is this?” she asks. I smile. “Today we’re having a party during class for Thanksgiving,” I tell her. She is appalled. Why didn’t I tell her? She could have brought tabouli, quba, olives. “Please, Lisbeth, 5 minutes!” she pleads. “I bring quba.” I think she has it ready—wouldn’t you?–so I reluctantly turn around to her apartment. Class is already starting ½ an hour late because Maude’s kids have the day off school, and I am taking them over to my place to hang out with my kids, who don’t get off till noon. It’s been a complicated morning so far.
Bea returns, beaming, carrying 2 containers. She opens them to show me. One has the mushy rice and one has the spiced meat and raisin filling. I am mystified. Where and when is she going to put them together and cook them? The foil-covered trays contain simple foods like pumpkin bread, coconut tarts, tiny mince pies (I made some hallal mince this year—I didn’t put brandy in it).
We’re also in the middle of a 3-day storm and it’s pouring as we drive through sodden, still bright leaves to collect Maude and her 3 kids, along with Fiona and another woman. They are all appalled. WHY didn’t I tell them it was a party? They would have brought things. “This is a party for you; you’re not supposed to work,” I tell them, but they are not convinced.
My phone rings; it’s Amy, who isn’t supposed to be coming today. I answer it, and get Suzi’s husband, telling me that he’s bringing Amy and another woman and where is the class? Usually there’s at least one person absent, but today everyone is there.
I pop into the church kitchen and make Iraqi-style tea and we serve the goodies, with me trying to get everyone to chatter in English instead of Arabic. They exclaim over my baked goods and everyone likes them, especially the coconut pies.
Later, during class time, we do Thanksgiving stuff. I teach a simple history lesson, glossing over the parts I don’t remember. We’re doing countable and uncountable nouns so I make a thanksgiving meal shopping list and we practice. At the end, we go around and say what we’re thankful for.
“The party,” says one person. “Thank you for the party.” “Thank you for being our teacher,” adds another. This is nice, but I explain that it’s not just supposed to be thanking me. I give them some examples. “I know you’ve lost a lot,” I tell them, “but we still have so many things to be thankful for!”
Runi, 72, smiles. “I am thankful to be in America,” she says firmly. Everyone agrees. “Thankful for safe,” says another. Yes, they all say. They are thankful for homes even though their current apartments are much smaller than the big houses most had in Iraq. They are thankful for children, as they know all too many mothers who still grieve.
Maude grins slyly. “I am thankful for rain,” she announces. We all laugh, but it’s true. We have no water shortages here, and she tells us how much she enjoys long hot showers, and not having to worry about the electricity being cut.
Afterwards, I take everyone home. Bea, who’s a 20-minute drive each way, wants me to come back to get the quba, but I am already late to a going-away coffee for a friend who’s moving to Australia, and I have something else after that. “Next time,” I say firmly.
“Eid Mabrouk! Happy Thanksgiving!” they all tell me as they kiss me goodbye. Later, mystified by Black Friday, Harold calls Donn and basically reads him the entire Walmart ad. He can’t believe the prices. Sadly, he has to work. I suspect I will get a lot of phone calls the day before, asking for rides to the mall. I’m not going.
In honour of the holidays, please pop over and read my review of Hurry Less, Worry Less at Christmas and enter to win your own copy! I write about some memories of Christmases Past. Go on! It will only take a minute.