Gemutlichkeit and Thanksgiving

I don’t have the easiest relationship with the German language, but here is a word I love:  “Gemutlichkeit.”   It means coziness–friends, family, good food, the perfect atmosphere.  Cozy.  Is there anything better?

I wish you a lovely Thanksgiving holiday–whether or not you are American and given to celebrating with turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie tomorrow.   I wish you a cozy day to dwell on all you are thankful for.

I am thankful for a year that has brought excitement and un-ease all at the same time.  We’ve had a crazy rollercoaster ride with our move, and, while I tend to share the fun bits of our days in Germany, it’s still a struggle many days.  Last week was a doozy.  Monday night, one child was up late into the night having a meltdown–because that’s just what kids do sometimes.  The next night the other child was up until the wee hours, dreadfully homesick for the States.  After that, it didn’t take long for me to be bawling my eyes out–from exhaustion coupled with a dose of homesickness (who knew it was contagious?).   And by Thursday,  both kids came home early from school with a stomach bug.

No worries–they were happy and well by Friday.  But by that point, our dog had thrown her back out.

Today our dog is better, but another family member, in the States, is prepping for surgery.

We all have worries.  Every road is a bumpy road that’s worth travelling. I really believe that.  Some of the potholes I could certainly do without . . . but the views from the roughhewn paths are something special.

In the midst of the rough week, a friend invited us to his Jewish temple for a service and an early Thanksgiving meal with other Americans.  My husband and I dragged our tired, Protestant selves there–happy to be there, but exhausted nonetheless.  And it was such a beautiful night.  A soulful, but uptempo note in a downtempo week.   Suddenly the caucophany that had plagued us began to sound like a symphony.

And so, I am thankful.  For the fun and the difficult times, for the uptempo and downtempo.  For the opportunity to bawl my eyes out because the people I love are hurting or because the people I love are far away.  Because the people I love… that’s enough.  And, of course, I am thankful for the fun.  Bring on the fun and mischief!  (The people I love would want me to enjoy that, after all.)

Also, I should tell you that once I stopped feeling hysterical about this week, I began feeling a little historical.  I began thinking about the Mayflower and the Pilgrims, and, of course, the funny hats with belt buckles.  But mostly about the Pilgrims.  They weren’t the first English to plant a colony in the “New World.”  There was the Lost Colony at Roanoke first, and then the very successful colony at Jamestown.  And, anyhoo, these pilgrims on the Mayflower weren’t just religious pilgrims.  Some of the folk who took passage on the ship were, essentially, businessmen.  (Nathaniel Philbreck’s book Mayflower is a brilliant recounting of the history, if you want to brush up.)  The story isn’t a simple tale, nor is it a tale only  of success.

These pilgrims suffered huge losses before that first Thanksgiving, and trying times after, too.  I’m sure they were homesick and exhausted.  I’m sure they had bad nights and puffy-eyed mornings. . . and no food. . . and fleas.  No doubt, they would have felt singularly blessed if their loved ones had qualified doctors and surgeons to care for them!  But they didn’t.  Still, they set aside time for thanks and a harvest festival.  And it lasted for days.

And so Time sneezed, and here we are in 2014.  The stories are different. . .but not so different.

Winter is coming, and we celebrate the final harvest festivals, and we remember to be thankful.  Gemutlichkeit–coziness and happiness and gratitude.   Let’s wrap it around ourselves like a cloak to stave off the winter.

Some of the people I love, celebrating their thankful, happy hearts.  Ireland 2008.
Some of the people I love, celebrating their thankful, happy hearts. Ireland 2008.

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