How we spent Danksgiving Part II

NORMALLY, OUR THANKSGIVING would be spent with friends and family back in the USA. But without a recognized holiday here and with the distinct lack of family, you sometimes have to improvise.

Saturday night the John Deere expat community gathered in a restraunt not too far from here where 7 or 8 families dined together on a traditional Thanksgiving menu: Turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, and some pumpkin soup (who doesn’t have pumpkin soup on their Thanksgiving table?…it was excellent, BTW).  Unfortunately Melissa stayed home with the young ones who were sick, while Anna, Chase and I went to enjoy some good old English conversation (Topics included such things as, “What? Your kids didn’t have to get the Meningitis vaccination?!?)  I give credit to the organizers, it was an excellent meal and atmposphere and a nice getaway.

ON SUNDAY, THANKSGIVING HIT ANOTHER GEAR.

All week long Melissa and a couple of other American expat wives in Neustadt had been  scheming on a Thanksgiving dinner for our families. And it was a rousing success –  It had all the marks of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, with Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie…all of it just like if you were having Thanksgiving dinner a Grandma’s house. With a few additions.

THE PRE-DINNER APPETIZER FOR THE MEN WAS A CUBAN CIGAR.  I had forgotten entirely that the lifelong ban I’ve lived under for Cuban cigars doesn’t necessarily extend to Europe, so I was quick to jump at the offer. Maybe a little too quick, because it was only when I was sitting on the patio smoking a cigar with the fellas and noticed the kids gawking at me shockeyed through the windows did I recall that they probably have never seen Melissa or I smoke a cigar before, and that I might have just erased 10 years of no-smoking education from their minds (“Ah, but I don’t inhale, kids.”).

After the dinner and desert were down and the conversation was  still on high, Brian then broke what is sure to become another new Thanksgiving tradition – some Polish Buffalo Vodka.  I don’t know how Polish Buffalo Vodka is different than any other kind of Vodka (it’s all grocery store Smirnoff to me), but I am pretty sure that when I’m offered a Vodka from the place where Vodka was just about born it would be downright uncouth to turn it down. It was not a bad chaser for Turkey and pumpkin pie.

WE MIGHT HAVE STOPPED THERE, BUT FRANZ WAS NOT TO BE OUTDONE. Franz and Sabine were two of the local neighbors from nearby that accepted an invitation to join us for the American holiday.   Franz is probably in his fifties with more genuinely interesting stories than days I have on the earth, so when the vodka came out he started to to tell about his friend who does a little moon-shining. Soon, Franz disappeared from the house only to return a few minutes later with a clear unlabeled bottle of pear liquor made in someone’s backyard.  That was genuinely pretty good too, but I think by that time you probably could have served us all a flute of antifreeze and we would have been sitting around commenting about how smooth it went down.

So our traditional Thanksgiving dinner from the last years this year was replaced by a dinner with our family from Iowa, one from Missouri, a Ohio family with Spanish roots, and German family in a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving.  It had a traditional American fixings, bookended by Guban cigars, Polish Vodka and German moonshine.

And that was not a bad way to spend it at all.

How we spent Danksgiving (part 1).

ON THANKSGIVING DAY, OUR KIDS HAD A DATE WITH A NEEDLE.

I’m not exactly sure how it worked out that cruelly for them. I suppose a couple things came together.   First, and obviously, Thanksgiving is not a recognized holiday here, so business and office places and schools were open and running just like any other day.

Secondly, the last time the kids were at the doctor’s office he noted that they didn’t seem to have Meningitis vaccinations, which are normal (required?) in Germany.   I didn’t appreciate this at the time, but Melissa had experienced first hand the grizzly horror of taking the kids in for shots and decided she wanted me there for some additional firepower. I groussed a little (“C’mon, what’s the big deal with getting some shots?”) but relented and decided it would work best for me to come home a little early and help out on Thanksgiving, because that meant it would be easier to slip out in the afternoon while my US colleagues were on vacation.

MELISSA HAD A STRATEGY.  This time, she elected to employ the element of suprise.  The kids were unaware of their appointment all day long.  We went to work and school like any other day, and then came home to reheated Macaroni and Wurst. After supper, Melissa layed out some gift wrapped presents on the kitchen counter, one for each kids, and gathered them around the kitchen counter…and broke the news that in 30 minutes, they were all getting a literal shot in the arm, but that if they did OK they would get to come home and open a present.

And that is the point at which we officially lost control, and never regained it.

The kids cried the entire way to the doctor’s office.   I should say that differently…the girls cried all the way to the doctor’s office.  In a proud moment as a father, crying really doesn’t explain what my two sons were doing.  They were wailing.

They wailed in the house as I carried them to the van. They wailed all the way to the office. They wailed as we walked across the street. They wailed in the lobby, and they wailed in the examination room while we waited for the doctor.  Then, when time for shots came, they really started to make some noise.

When we got into the exam room Camden tucked himself into the corner of the room behind an examination table and curled up into the the fetal position on the floor.  He screamed louder every time we told him he needed to “come out right now!”.  As Jazzy, and then Anna, and then Kiersten got their shots (all crying)  and his time came closer he just cried and wailed louder.  Chase was 4th up to bat, and my brave seven year old son kicked and shook and screamed like we were about to hack off his arm.  In the end it took all three of us – me, Melissa and the doctor – to restrain him while the shot was administered. He hopped off the table still wailing – holding his arm like it was barely still attached- while we extricated Camden from his hiding place and forced him up on the table too and put the needle in his arm.   By the time we were done we had 4 crying kids (Jazz of all of them was fine), two exasperated parents, a nurse and a doctor trying to leave the room with the big loud American family as quickly as possible.

There is no sensation like the moment you take your kids back out to the waiting room and receive the burning stares of others asking quizzically What just happened in there? I honestly entertained a thought in my head of  which would worse, the Meningitis vaccination or actual Meningitis (give me a minute, still thinking). As we walked out,  I asked Melissa, “So is it always like that?”

“Oh yeah,” she says, “I knew it would be bad.  I’ve had to pull Camden out underneath chairs and tables before. That’s pretty normal.”

So that will go down as one Thanksgiving day where none of us felt particularly like being thankful for much of anything.   Except for me…. I am thankful for my wife, who for the last 10 years has been taking our kids to the doctor’s office to get shots without me.   And I am also thankful that we now have some early Christmas shopping done, as those presents “for being good at the doctors office” stayed on the counter – untouched – and will now reappear a little later under the Christmas tree.