Since I moved to the East Coast from the Midwest 15 years ago, I have never gone home for Thanksgiving — I feel it's just too far to travel for a relatively minor holiday. Instead, I have spent my Thanksgivings with friends and acquaintances. The results have been mixed.
For a few years, I went to a friend's brother's house, where I had a front-line view of the cold war between the brother and his slightly older wife.
Another holiday outing saw me trying to converse with a friend's egg-nog-saturated father who, for what seemed like hours, gave me a one-on-one analysis of his unpublished post-modern play.
And once, at a boyfriend's house, I watched as the eldest brother haltingly told his Jewish parents of his engagement to the gorgeous Pakistani woman at his side. The chillingly offered congratulations were perhaps the least-convincing I have ever heard. As I recall, no one had seconds.
I do appreciate the generosity of everyone who has ever hosted me for Thanksgiving. But I have decided that other people's family dysfunction is a dish best enjoyed sparingly. So this November, I will be flying to the tropics to sip spiced rum punch and swim with the sea turtles.
My destination is St. Lucia. I booked the trip, appropriately, on Independence Day — or, more accurately, the early hours of July 5. After coming home from watching the fireworks display over the Charles River, I began browsing flight-hotel packages. I had already done a bit of research and pricing, but I was surprised to find myself utterly gripped by the desire to book the trip.
I mixed a mango-vodka cocktail, pulled out a credit card, and the deed was done. Now I am busy reading about the beaches, the rainforests, and the literature of St. Lucia. From St. Lucian poet Derek Walcott's Nobel address:
There is a force of exultation, a celebration of luck, when a writer finds himself a witness to the early morning of a culture that is defining itself, branch by branch, leaf by leaf, in that self-defining dawn, which is why, especially at the edge of the sea, it is good to make a ritual of the sunrise. Then the noun, the "Antilles" ripples like brightening water, and the sounds of leaves, palm fronds, and birds are the sounds of a fresh dialect, the native tongue. The personal vocabulary, the individual melody whose metre is one's biography, joins in that sound, with any luck, and the body moves like a walking, a waking island.