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When Traditions Are Bittersweet

Mohammed's birthday fell on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving this year, which meant we all had the day off. Usually our mission team celebrates Thanksgiving on the weekend before or after, but this year, we got to have it on Tuesday, which felt a little more authentic.

Our team has its own traditions now; we barely need to coordinate who is bringing what because we pretty much already know. Though Grace did make her first apple pie this year, which is perfect for a middle-schooler who is content to sit and peel apples for two hours (as long as "Hamilton" is playing, which felt appropriate for Thanksgiving). I think that's the first apple pie we've had since "Aunt" Betty left Tanzania several years ago. 

So we met at the home of friends who have hosted Thanksgiving for the last several years, and played Wiffle ball out on the lawn while dodging toddlers making a run for it. And the whipped cream melted on contact with the balmy air and the five roasted chickens made up for the lack of turkey. 

There is comfort in sameness, like well-worn shoes. Thanksgiving in Tanzania never feels like Thanksgiving in America, because, well, Thanksgiving is American. But we've created our own version of it, and what might have felt like second-best many years ago has now become tradition. 

The nature of this life overseas, though, warns us against making traditions. Putting down roots is forbidden, and those who do so suffer the consequences. In the absence of our own families, we may forge family connections that are deep and strong, but we do so at our own peril. Because everyone knows, even if we try to forget, that all of this overseas life is always temporary.

The family who has hosted Thanksgiving for the last several years is most likely leaving next year. Others will not be far behind. And for the rest of us, due to circumstances beyond our control, we are all realizing that our days in Tanzania could be numbered. Next Thanksgiving, our mission might not have a team here.

The Future is a constant topic of conversation, so whispers of it flew around all day on Tuesday. We can't ignore it, of course. But nobody mentioned that this could have been our last Thanksgiving together. As far as I know, no one even took any pictures, for probably the first time ever. It's almost like taking pictures would have had to make us admit that everything is changing. And since our lives have been full of so many good-byes, sometimes we'd rather just pretend that they won't happen.

Yet there is always so much sweetness with the bitter in this overseas life. And since I don't have any pictures from our Tanzanian Thanksgiving this year, I'll delight in the ones from years past.

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