Every year since I was very small, I remember having Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I always thought we had a large family. Larger than anyone I was friends with. Being young, it always seemed that I had an endless supply of aunts and uncles, and cousins. Every year my mother, father, brother and I would make the 1-2 hour drive to the Milwaukee area to celebrate Thanksgiving with our family.
Each dinner had certain traditions, staples, which made the celebration special. My grandma’s pies, or her special recipe for gravy. Or the relish tray that always included my favorites. Black olives. Each year we would gather at my Aunt Sandra’s house. I don’t remember much in the way of conversation. My memories are of togetherness. Of love. Of family. I remember my Grandma Alice smiling. Laughing. Delighting in the family that she, the matriarch had created. We all were there because of her. I remember her pies. Always Lemon Meringue, and Pumpkin. And they were, to this day, the BEST pies I have ever tasted.
Every year since I was born, my I have been lucky enough that my Thanksgivings have always been spent with family. Until this year. This year, we are on an island in the middle of the ocean, and it literally costs our family $2,000 a person to fly over here, or for us to fly home.
So this year we had to make a new tradition. In lieu of my family, a friend and I made our Thanksgiving meal for the men, and their families. This year, instead of spending my favorite holiday with my own family, I spent it with another family. A family that is infinitely as important to me as my own flesh and blood. For they are as entwined with my livelihood as my own cousins, aunts, and uncles. Each one of these men means something to my husband, and something to me. We are a family. Those who serve share a bond that no one else could ever know or understand. As a wife, I will never know the bonds that are shared between those men just as my husband will never know the bonds shared between wives while our husbands are gone.
This year we cooked a feast fit for a king. We had more leftovers than we knew what to do with. So we sent them on 4 giant platters to Staff Duty. For a moment in time, a moment in this life we all choose to lead, we gathered together in this strange land, where they don’t celebrate this wonderful holiday. Thanksgiving in my new home was everything I wanted it to be. It was everything of the aura of my Thanksgiving’s past. We ate, we laughed, and were as much of a family as any.
This Thanksgiving ranks among the best of them. For a while we all forgot that we were not among our families. For a moment we forgot that we were miles from our homes. For a while, along with good food, and good friends, we celebrated, we laughed, we enjoyed, we ate, and we were happy. For a while we forgot the reality of why we all were here on Okinawa. We forgot why we all were together. We made a new tradition with my Grandma’s pies, my husband’s turkey, my friend’s cream corn, and all of our new friends. Happy Thanksgiving, from Okinawa Japan.