Excerpt from True North:Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. My family will gather at my mom and dad’s house, and we will consume large quantities of delicious traditions including turkey, pumpkin soup, potatoes, green bean casserole, and blue hubbard squash. The blue hubbard almost didn’t happen this year because Carver felt he looked too much like Yoda to deserve being cooked for dinner. Thanksgiving has always been my most favorite holiday, not only because of the family gatherings in places like my grandmother’s house in Maine with all of my aunts and uncles; or even still in Philadelphia with my dad’s side; new traditions have been established within our own little family like cutting our tree down somewhere in my in the elder Krill’s yard overlooking Cannon Mountain. We always decorate the day following Thanksgiving because Geoff heads out for his annual trip to Ski Spec in Breckenridge, Colorado. Geoff is obsessed with the Annual Christmas Tree and before I came onto the scene, some of you may actually recall, the ones which reached his 16 foot ceiling and overtook the better part of our, then his, living room. Our kids have inherited his love of the Christmas Tree Experience and all things related; decorating now takes on a level of patience I never knew existed this deep in my bones. But listening to them last night talk up in their rooms about which ornaments they were most excited to be reunited with definitely filled me with a nostalgia for my own brother, parents, Christmas Tree Memories and life in general at 11 Eagle Drive, Merrimack, NH, the first primary village of my existence.
Adding to my nostalgia, a Holocaust survivor from Hungary come to our school yesterday to share stories from her idyllic childhood which turned into her being hidden in tops of barns and waiting for the Russians to rescue her family. Watching our students’ faces as they listened to her memories so vastly different from their own rural upbringing here in the White Mountains also reminded me of a similar idealism I felt growing up. I was lucky. I grew up in a family that fostered a love of the outdoors, sports, music, and dance. I grew up in a town that had great public schools with amazing teachers, which developed in me the confidence that I could do and be anything. I was lucky. I played on competitive soccer teams, coached by people who modeled integrity and character on and off the field, and expected us to do the same. I had good friends who brought out my best qualities and never made me feel like I was missing out on anything because I chose not to drink alcohol or use recreational drugs in high school. My first boyfriend was really funny, and I learned from him just how important it is to be with someone who can make you laugh, especially for me, someone who often was far too serious about being focused, organized, or worried about something.
Of course, there were challenging and difficult moments of adolescence that I never wish to repeat or even remember as clearly as I do. There were embarrassing situations like the time I was working on scenery for the school play and the boy I liked worked across from me, and I realized he could see right down my shirt. Or, the time in eighth grade a boy I liked told me he needed to talk about something important, and, when I had convinced myself he was going to ask me to the semi formal, he confessed he really liked my best friend and did I think she would go with him to the semi formal? There was the time when I really worried about a friend who had been depressed, like really sad for a month or so, and I didn’t know what to do. So, I told her parents, and she was incredibly angry with me, and I thought she would never be my friend again. And she was, eventually. There was heartbreak, disappointment, and funerals for young people I would never understand. I worked really hard to maintain my grades, sports, friends and jobs at Shaw’s Supermarket and Naticook Day Camp knowing that I needed to contribute to my college experience; my parents did not make a lot of money, but we had enough because they made it be enough.
And when I moved away for Connecticut College, and then Philadelphia, PA, and then Portsmouth, NH and then here to the North Country, I always felt like that first village was with me, rooting me on from afar. To know that I have people in my corner still, a long way from the soccer field of my youth, is something I’m truly grateful for. And so on Saturday, November 28, my 41st birthday, I will get to reveal to my grown up village, the town where I met and fell in love with my husband coaching soccer together- how ironic; the towns we are raising our children in, the place where both sets of parents have retired to, for our kids to have these amazing relationships with all four of their grandparents, where their countless aunts and uncles visit them, and we can hike, bike, or ski anywhere the day takes us; I am lucky enough to share with this world my first novel, one that has truly been years in the writing. Thank you to the villages who helped get me to this place, this beautiful, mountainous place, filled with family, friendship, laughter and love. Hope to see you at Cascades Cafe and Coffeehouse on Saturday. I will be waiting. And I will be forever grateful. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!