Early yesterday morning, I awoke to emails from two former students. They had each written me, from China, to wish us a happy Thanksgiving. Last year, they studied at Murray State University and were invited to roadtrip up to Chicago with The Husband and I, and to celebrate the holiday with us at my mom’s house. Waking up to their emails kicked my thoughts on this year’s holiday into overdrive.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking more than usual about all of the things I have to be thankful for, and I’ve also been reminiscing quite a bit about Thanksgivings past. Growing up, I absolutely loved the holiday because our whole family would gather at my grandma’s house to play, reconnect, and eat too much good food. And for each of the last three years, we’ve celebrated in a novel way: with fellow Fulbrighters in Morocco, with friends in Poland, and last year, with my students from China here in the US.
I don’t like to admit this but I had been feeling like Thanksgiving this year may have paled in comparison to previous celebrations. And now, as I sit here finishing the last bite of leftover pie, I realize that celebrating this year was one of the most satisfying Thanksgivings that I have ever had.
It’s good to be home, and even better to be surrounded by family. This year’s Thanksgiving had all of the elements that I’ve loved over the years: cooking together, lots of delicious food, a houseful of people, and sharing the holiday with people who are celebrating it for the first time.
That last point may be the biggest one, and it’s easily the number one thing I am most thankful for this year.
This is Mook.
This tiny creature came into our lives four years ago today. The Husband brought her home as a wedding gift for me, and she has been my Little Cat ever since. People often remark about how big her ears are, how soft her coat is, and the fact that she seems to be missing much of her fur. They also mistakenly think she is a Sphynx cat or refer to her as a hairless cat. Neither is true. She and our other cat, Ninja, are both Cornish Rex cats. We chose them after a rigorous search because we discovered these cats to have magical properties.
Mook is a sweet, if not slightly deranged feline. She has a variety of likes and dislikes, as well as a wide range of nicknames.
Likes: chasing and killing house flies, drinking water that has been designated for humans, sunny naps, playing in the water after someone takes a shower, yogurt and/or applesauce, singing to alert her humans to the presence of an insect, obsessively licking things, traveling, sleeping in a human armpit, unleashing hell on the scratch post, washing her feet in her water bowl, letting out a barely audible battle cry before pouncing, and having random people on the internet admire her beauty on the tumblr she shares with Ninja.
Dislikes: boisterous children, long walks on the beach, excited puppies, cold weather, not receiving attention from her humans, and salad.
Nicknames: Mookenstein, Little Cat, Mucous, Little Brain, Donkey Cat, and many more.
Our outing for the day consisted of going to get eggs. Now that a better option for buying cage-free eggs exists for us, we no longer buy eggs at the store. Instead, we head about 15 miles SW of Puryear to Crum Farms.
We visit about once a month or so, sometimes for a quick transaction, and at other times we have had lengthy conversations about the state of food in the US and have been treated to a tour of their farm. Today, we happened to arrive at milking time, so we got to see about 18 of their 300 cows being milked. On our first visit, we spent over an hour walking around their grounds and through their buildings.
The family who operates Crum Farms is friendly and honest, and I appreciate what they’re doing. We had lots of questions for them, ranging from things like how they raise and slaughter their animals to questions about what this is or what that does. They’ve always been kind and forthcoming in their responses, and when asked about peppers in their garden, they even sent us home with a few tasty (and quite spicy!) freebies.
After spending close to two weeks in the Chicago area visiting with friends and family for the holidays, The Husband, our cats, and I returned to Puryear late last night.
The ride down took about seven hours, so I had ample time to visualize the effects of our two-week absence; surely our uninvited guests had overrun our apartment, and might even be sleeping in our bed.
I was the first one in the door, and made a quick sweep before releasing the cats from their carriers. I was pleasantly surprised to find neither squirrels nor evidence of squirrels in our apartment.
When we first looked at the place back in August, the bedroom had a small hole in the wall and some insulation on the carpet. We were puzzled by this, and after asking our landlord, we learned that the apartment shares its walls with a family of squirrels. Apparently, they break through the walls from time to time and sometimes run the length of the house at 0300, but other than that, they’re not bad neighbors.
In the mornings, one of them often pops his head out of their exterior hole to say hello. Our cats wait on the kitchen counter next to the kitchen window every morning in hopes that the squirrel will come to the window and say hi to them as well.
I may not have read as many books this year, but a number of the books I read were quite lengthy.
These are the books I read in 2012, listed in order in which they were read:
1. Everything is Illuminated (Jonathan Safran Foer) *
2. Under the Dome (Stephen King)
3. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (Anthony Bourdain)
4. Stories I Only Tell My Friends (Rob Lowe) **
5. Eating Animals (Jonathan Safran Foer)
6. Throttle (Joe Hill/Stephen King)
7. A Game of Thrones (George R. R. Martin)
8. A Clash of Kings (George R. R. Martin)
9. A Storm of Swords (George R. R. Martin)
10. A Feast for Crows (George R. R. Martin)
11. A Dance with Dragons (George R. R. Martin)
I read the bulk of these books on my kindle, and now that I have been using it almost exclusively, I absolutely love it. In fact, holding a traditional book seems rather cumbersome in comparison to my slim little e-reader. I love how portable my books have become, but not being able to physically lend them out or give them away is something I miss a little.
* Everything is Illuminated is one (of two) instances in which I think the movie is actually better than the book.
** My kindle is the less expensive version that comes with ads, and surprisingly, the ads are actually useful from time to time. I listened to Stories I Only Tell My Friends courtesy of a free audio book offer that was an ad provided by audible.com.
Two years ago, we had a joint Fulbright/Peace Corps Volunteer party in Errachidia to celebrate Christmas. Last year, The Husband, my mom, and I had a quiet time at our apartment in Warsaw, and this year, my brother and his fiancée, The Husband and I, and my mom, as well as our cats, shared Christmas dinner and opened gifts at my mom’s place in the Chicago suburbs.
I’ve enjoyed reflecting on the places I’ve been and the people I have met over the years; these people and places stay with me more than one might realize.
Happy holidays to you all, in your various corners of the world!