“In my family, for Thanksgiving — we all have to go around and say something we’re thankful for.” I jam my plastic fork into the maple-pecan tart that Hanna and I bought to stave off homesickness. The lights here are warm against the calming blue walls, and if I close my eyes I can almost smell my favorite Thanksgiving dishes: squash rolls, casseroles, corn pudding, cranberry jello salad. I blink, flicker my eyes to the chocolate-hazelnut tart on Hanna’s plate, avoiding her gaze.
“Do you want to do that here?” she asks, all kindness and empathy. I frown, considering.
“Yes, I think so. Why not?” Hanna just nods. I clear my throat, bordering on nervous now that I’m on the spot. “Well, I’m thankful for this. For studying abroad, for new friends, and for traveling… everywhere.” My fork hits the bottom of the plate, and I finagle another piece of almost-but-not-quite-the-same-as pecan pie onto it.
“I second that. All of it.” She snags a piece of the chocolate-hazelnut. “I’m thankful for… Irish food. And tea. Lots and lots of tea. And the Janet, and the Paul –” My family usually stops around here — once around, maybe twice, then stop and pray or eat or talk. Hanna and I keep going, listing everything that pops into our brains.
” — and basically the whole of the anthropology department, no? I’m thankful for… community. And cheesy cop shows.”
“Oh, television. I’m thankful for good television.”
“And movies — good movies.”
“If we’re going with the obvious, I’m thankful for the boy.”
I laugh. “Well, I’m thankful for you, and your crazy hair and your excellent company.”
“I’m thankful for coffee, for getting me out of bed every morning so I can hang out with you.”
“Aw, shucks. That’s sweet.”
Hanna laughs. “And for tarts! Delicious, wonderful tarts. And potatoes.”
“Food. All the food. Desserts and everything else,” I counter.
“Oh, you like food? Wow, I’m shocked.” I ignore her and continue listing.
“Ireland. All of Ireland. Thanksgiving in Ireland!”
“Books. And family. I’m thankful for family. I’m so, so thankful for my family.”
“Me, too,” I say. We quiet, staring at the torn remains of our tarts. “I’m thankful for my ridiculous siblings and parents.” I stab at the pecan one again, sigh. “I miss them.”
The listing continues, this never-ending stream of words and sentences that forces us to think long and hard and sometimes makes us laugh.
“Julie Andrews, and Dame Maggie Smith… and J.K. Rowling for writing such a marvelous book series with such awesome characters as Minerva McGonagall.”
“Lord of the Rings!”
“Ian McKellan! and Zachary Levi.”
“Actors who genuinely love and try to interact with their fans. Conventions. John –”
“… John Barrowman –”
“Doctor Who! and watching it live.”
“Snapchats from everyone, but especially our sisters.”
“Ferries to Dublin!”
“The Irish Sea, on which the ferries sail! Hell, at this point I’m thankful we missed our flight.”
“Me, too. And for marvelous authors, and Tamora Pierce for making such badass lady characters that we can aspire to be like. And for Christmas.”
“You said that already.”
“Well, you said potatoes twice. I’m thankful for… Harry Potter studio tours.”
“And Hogwarts. And fangirling. And Dublin. I’m thankful for every single memory I have of my dad, because they’re all ridiculous, and for the fact that our legs work well enough to actually see London in three days flat.”
I smile at my purple-headed friend. “Yes! And for sleep. Sleep is good.”
The list goes on, skipping from trivial things — I’m thankful for my new shoes — to heartfelt — I’m thankful for the way these experiences are shaping me. The tarts dwindle to crumbs as we slowly eat our unconventional Thanksgiving desserts. When the last bites disappear into our mashed-potato-stuffed bellies, we stand and slip back onto Dame Street. The city sounds welcome us: cars whooshing by, double decker buses kneeling to accept more passengers, people talking in different accents and languages. We cross the road towards Trinity and I look down towards O’Connell Street, wondering where the street musician we heard on our way out has disappeared to. Bagpipes.
However short our time here, the two of us consider it home. Yes, I think. That, too. I’m thankful for that — whether that’s there or here or, perhaps, somewhere else — I’m thankful for home.