Thanksgiving is, hands down, my favorite holiday of all. Growing up in my family it was always a smaller dinner than maybe some people's, just my immediate family and maybe our next door neighbors down the road. Since my mom, our head chef and organizer, is from the midwest, our versions of all the classics always have a '1960s midwest, maybe came from a Betty Crocker contest recipe' vibe to them: the fattiest mashed potatoes, green bean casserole made with canned cream of mushroom soup with funyans on top, Ocean Spray cranberry sauce straight from the can, peanut butter pie, and jell-o salad. We calculated one year that literally everything we make could come from a can or a box if necessary. Just like the pilgrims intended, obviously, and totally delicious.
(The typical Erickson spread, minus the turkey obviously as I'm a vegetarian)
This year was obviously a bit different. One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is that, since the menu and the traditions never really change, you can really use it as a moment to sit back and reflect on the changes that have occurred in your life in the last year. This time, the changes in my life between last year and this were so incredibly epic and large that I can barely wrap my head around them. They are all changes that I'm really, really happy to be riding the wave of, but they still make my head spin when I try to stand back and think about them for a second.
On Thanksgiving day 2012, I was actually on the road, driving to New Orleans on what was to be my last major American road trip for a long, long time in order to celebrate with one of my best childhood friends as she got married. I was living at home, had only just started my job at Color Services, was riding like crazy and wondering what the future would bring. Oxford was not even on the edge of my radar. At all. In fact, I'd all but given up on grad school for the year, as I'd had a really lackluster fall trying to get applications together, and was in the process of buckling down for another year out in the field before trying again in fall 2013.
(Thanksgiving in the south: frosty cotton fields, blue skies, and the smell of smoke. One of my most beloved sights)
(The beautiful New Orleans wedding I went to last year - my friend who got married is also VERY pregnant now: another reminder of how much can change in a year!)
I ate my official 2012 Thanksgiving dinner in a Waffle House in Tennessee, and gosh it was good. But it would also be a lie to say that last fall, and last Thanksgiving by extension, wasn't a tensely uncertain and not very fun time in my life. There was a lot of wondering, worrying, and trying to find a path to go forward on.
A year later, I sat down to a formal jacket and tie three course Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the Master of Pembroke College. I can't even. It's like the lives of two very different people have been incongruously mashed together into my body, and a very visceral reminder that this is, indeed, one of the biggest changes I've yet experienced in my life. It's a bizarre, fascinating, and incredibly liberating feeling.
(Just a slight change from the Waff...)
(Not gonna lie, though: this food was fancy and all, but my inner redneck craved those Waffle House hashbrowns juuuuust a little bit...)
There are a lot of things I really miss that I had to leave for this new adventure--my country, my family, my friends, my beloved job at Color Services, and of course my horses--but at moments like this I know I have no regrets for the decision I made to come here. This is such a crazy, beautiful, sometimes difficult, but always thrilling adventure. I'm so thankful that the universe has let me go along for the ride.