Mates-Giving in Summerland, Part 2

Like all best-laid plans, it started with a half-drunk conversation with neighbours. Way back in September, I said something about Kool-Aid, and my neighbour (A) asked “what is that?”* This sparked a conversation about intercultural weird foodstuffs, which inevitable end is always always Thanksgiving.

*also- flabbergasted- Kool-Aid!! What is Kool-Aid?! It’s more than a beverage, it’s a cultural institution! Come on! Kool-Aid! Kool-Aid Man? “Oh YEAH!” bursts through wall? Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests? Freakin’ JONESTOWN??? Ya know- that Kool-Aid. So, yeah, we included Kool-Aid on the menu- Sharkleberry Finn flavour, because it’s the best.

The fascination with this controversial, strange, and uniquely North American holiday stems from an inundation of exported American TV shows and movies. We field questions about its origins, status as a federal holiday, and if it’s some wacko religious thing- also, what’s up with Black Friday often comes as a secondary line of questioning. The explanation to these queries is never easy. It is a holiday that both unites and divides us. The historical significance is deep and meaningful- in both positive and negative aspects. The origins are contested and include:

a celebration of genocide

a traditional native harvest festival that colonists appropriated as their own. To read a lovely piece written by my friend, Malinda Lowry Maynor, about Lumbee Thanksgiving traditions, please follow THIS LINK.

the public school narrative of “the natives saved the pilgrims from starvation with a single meal and they were so gosh-darned ‘Thankful’ that we celebrate it every year since!” (can you tell I’m rolling my eyes at that one?)

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a means to bring a nation together after the Civil War (LINK TO ARTICLE),

and a Norman Rockwell imaging of family togetherness, feasting and gratitude- at least once a year

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A day of mourning and remembrance for Native communities

 

Also- important to remember- for many who struggle year-round just to get by, those of us who live hand-to-mouth, this celebration of abundance in Love and Food is one day of the year held sacred as a time to put aside poverty, oppression, alienation and fear and celebrate that which we DO have. Because ALL of us need at least one day a year- especially, it seems, this year.

I will not even talk about that celebration of violent consumerism that is Black Friday because it makes me dry-heave. What is WRONG with people??

So, after inadequately explaining a surface-level version of all of these things, we were faced with the question: “So… are we gonna do this, or what?” Or, well, more like “Can you feed us?”

To which, B and I looked at each other and issued a resounding F*CK YEAH, we are!

With the support of our neighbours, we planned and executed an amazing event. It started with brewing and bottling homemade beer and cider a month in advance. The menu was determined by imaginings of “traditional” Thanksgiving fare: turkey, stuffing/dressing (I made both), mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole (with marshmallows, naturally), baked mac n’ cheese (made by a neighbour-volunteer), buttermilk biscuits, Parker House rolls, peas, greens, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, sweet tea, and Kool-Aid. Other items were requested, and who am I to say no to these Southern (& etc) favourites: pimiento cheese, key lime pie, hush puppies, horchata and mint juleps. Guests brought a variety of salads, apple pie, ice cream, drinks, sweet potato enchiladas, and the most adorable turkey-themed cupcakes I have ever seen in real life.

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I didn’t count, but somewhere in the ballpark of 25-30 people showed up. In the mix, were folx from and/or with roots in Australia, the US, Canada, China, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Czech Republic, Holland, Belgium, and Russia. We set up games of cornhole and croquet in the back yard, and had a baby pool out for the littles to splash in. This, of course, got commandeered by the gaggle of 5-7 year old kids, who proceeded to get naked and have a massive water-fight. The slightly older 1o-year-olds walked around arguing tenuously  understood scientific theories. And the teenagers skulked around, holing up in bedrooms, sliding through to stealth seconds (and thirds!) of pie, and generally doing whatever teenagers do during holiday gatherings.

Given that it was a school/work night, things started to wind down fairly early- but not before my neighbour was able to show off his sound system, fog machine and laser light set-up. This was a HUGE hit for the kids, and I haven’t stopped hearing about it since. If you are reading this, B- you better get ready for more back yard dance parties at our place.

I don’t have photos of most of the festivities because I was too busy enjoying them, but here are a few blurry photos for your enjoyment:

 

Here are a few of me and B, trying our best to be proper hosts…
And, yes, I wore my Standing Rock t-shirt. Because I will always, unapologetically be THAT person at the dinner table- especially at my own table.

We sent everyone home with containers of food, and had leftovers for days. X & O finished off the last of the pie for breakfast (whatever- it’s the Hoooolidaaaays!) today and we’re off to planning our next big event, which may or may not be a Nightmare on Elm Street Before Christmas themed thing, hosted by one of my best babes in the States.

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Waiting

In Queensland, rain sneaks up on you quick. They say the kookaburras are a giveaway- they’ll hoot and holler before and after a storm. Others argue that it’s magpies that herald the downpour- but either way, the birds seem just as surprised as everyone else when the sky cracks apart to dump the ocean inland.

On the other hand, days like today tease us with nimbostratus clouds in shades of slate and graphite, wind tearing cold through screen doors. A storm may rage over us at any moment. Or, maybe it will drizzle, perhaps we’ll get hail- chances are just as good that it will blow over and leave us with 90° heat and sun by dinnertime. We can’t plan based on what we expect- because its liable to shift at any moment.

Cloudy day
Clouds over the city- I stole this one from the web

Living in visa-limbo is quite the same. The word “when” is replaced by “if” as we wait to hear back from the tight-lipped bureaucrats that hold our paperwork. On an official level, they (as yet) wage no verdict and no date at which they will release one. Kind-hearted administrative staff offer encouragement: “things are progressing”; “everything looks to be all in order”; and “it shouldn’t be too much longer now before they get back to you.” But these platitudes don’t help us resolve the fact that two very different sets of expectations are waging war on our everyday lives.

We are on Week & of our estimated “4-8 week” timeline. Over this time, wish lists (and their sinister siblings: dreadlists) have built up. We need things, but are worried about amusing more stuff that may prove redundant in the  next month. Do we buy the boys shorts? Or wait until we have more information? Summer is practically here… unless we have to return to a place where it’s Winter.

In addition to the material crap that clutters our day-to-day reasoning, we are also tabulating conditions for what we require for our next place, if we can’t have this one that we want so much. We investigate weather, employment, transportation and schools in select cities- building our own acceptability quotient tables of next-stop possibilities. Day by day we add to the lists- wishes on paper, and dreads in our minds- while we wait.

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Bushwalking

There should be no reason the paperwork won’t go through, but what if someone has a bad day, or decides that all Americans are like *thatelectedofficialoverthere* and pulls the red stamp to prevent our staying. Do we start looking for jobs in the States, or double down on what we’ve got going here? When every day feels like a slow-motion anxiety attack, it becomes difficult to determine what are expectations- and what are fears.

At the same time, there is a freedom in giving oneself over to the not-knowing place. As the lolly-voiced woman that answered my last call said, “not much to do now but wait.” And we’ve finally become too exhausted to keep thrashing around in the uncertainty.

Koalas
Just some koalas, for no reason at all

And so, I photograph the sunsets and dig up rotten tree roots in the yard, bottle home-brewed beer and purchase week-sized portions of laundry detergent. We muddle through the days trying not to look too hard at the lists. I want to focus now on the good thing we have here, to not let uncertainty drive these days into melancholy. Instead of entertaining that morbid tendency of mine to mourn the loss of what I still have, I am focusing on keeping a regular routine and planning trips to places we missed- or loved so much we want to return to. Meanwhile, I am keeping an eye out for that determining email but, as much as I am able, keep my phone out of sight. Except for the 200 times a day I scan my Spam folder, just in case it got filtered there.

Amazing sky
Sunsets after the rain are always astounding