Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Well, a day late but it's still Thanksgiving weekend at least. Time has been flying this month it seems, but even in Italy we Americans take a day to slow down and celebrate Thanksgiving together. It's quite the annual tradition at the NAC, and it really helps us to enjoy our American heritage as a family while we're all away from home. During my holy hour yesterday I thought about every way I could imagine that God has freely blessed me. I didn't get very far because the first things that came to mind were themselves enough for a lifetime of gratitude. I was struck by just how much I have been favored with grace. God really does give in "good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, [and] put into your lap" (Luke 6:37). The best part of Thanksgiving for me was having the opportunity to Skype with my family (you won't believe this, but the beloved Internet here didn't even randomly disconnect me once the whole time!). It was really great to see them and enjoy an hour together on such a special day.
And the day did start early. On Thanksgiving the American students all take the day off from class, so you'd think we would enjoy it, first of all, by sleeping in. Well not me, because I'm stupid. Kind of. I signed up for an annual 5k Turkey Trot that the NAC puts on. We start at the gates of the college and basically run around the walls of the Vatican and back to the college. So our claim to fame is that we have the only 5k in the world that circumscribes an entire country. *fist pump*. I may or may not have used that verb correctly. But the bigger point is that we start the race at 6 a.m. I know that there are people in the world who are early birds. Well I'm the worm that gets eaten because it's sleeping. So I rolled over at 5:30 and shook my head as I thought, "what was I thinking? no, when I signed up for this I wasn't thinking, and that's the problem.."
There were about 70 other guys who were as injudicious as I was and woke up early to run the race. Among them were those who were actually trying to go fast, and those who dressed up as a banana or a gorilla, or ran with a large American flag. Thankfully, we were greeted at the finish line with snacks and drinks, and even a 6:30 a.m. beer if we wanted it. I ate several chocolate chip cookies.
Afterwards we all prepared and ate a big Thanksgiving breakfast together in our individual halls. In my hall, we cooked up bacon, sausage and scrambled eggs, plus sweet bread and juice and coffee etc. It was exceptionally good. And best of all it was American. Following breakfast and some fun conversation with the guys on my hall, I went promptly back to bed and slept for another 2.5 hours, which was glorious.
I woke up from my morning nap thinking about Thanksgiving at my Grandma Lenz's house.
Growing up we used to celebrate Thanksgiving with my dad's parents in
Florida about every other year. It's funny how many small things you
can remember so strikingly. The distinctive, comfortable aroma of their
house, the floor fan in the living room, eating ice cream in glass
bowls and popcorn in wooden bowls. Watching Jeopardy and Wheel of
Fortune every night. Watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on TV,
going to the flea market, the sound of the wind chimes on the back
patio, playing penny-ante poker every night after dinner. My grandma's
fudge! And her pancakes. Well, her cooking in general. My grandpa
sitting in his la-z-boy chair, or whistling as he putzed around in the tool shed... They were great memories to wake up with.
I didn't have too much time to dwell, because I had to get ready for the annual Thanksgiving football game between the new men class and the rest of the college. It's called the Spaghetti Bowl. Predictably, the new men lose almost every year. Even for my class of 62 I think we have a lot of good athletes, and we prepared really well for the game. I was hoping for at least a competitive score. But they have a pool of 200 to pick from, and the experience of their own Spaghetti Bowls. And they wiped the floor with us. Bummer. But the joke was on them, because little did they know that it was International Football-Plays-By-Golf-Rules Day, so the low score wins.
We had a great crowd for our Thanksgiving Mass, including many American bishops and cardinals in Rome for the holiday. And the cenone (che-no-nay, meaning 'big dinner') that followed was delicious. Green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and Turkey. Plus the Italian additions of prosciutto, ravioli, and good red wine lol. And we had homemade pumpkin pie with whipped cream for dessert, which tasted just like home.
All in all, it was a memorable first Thanksgiving away from home, and I'm so glad the college makes a point to stop our busy schedules and celebrate this American holiday together. I'm very much looking forward to the next month, not only because of the upcoming Advent and Christmas season, or because I can officially feel good about blasting Christmas music now (unlike my good buddy Mr.-Christmas-music-practically-year-round-man Tim Wezner. Although Tim I can't blame you, Christmas music really is that good), but because one month from today I'll get my first personal visit from home. My brother and his wife will be spending their Christmas holiday with me here in Rome, and it will most certainly be the best Christmas gift I have ever received.
So again, a very Happy Thanksgiving to all! I miss you guys, but God is good to us and He really does provide happiness and peace even when we're away from home.