A year ago, I may have lamented about being stuck in Spain during Thanksgiving- with a 7:30 wake up call, classes all day and not so much as a suggestion of a cornucopia. What makes it harder though, is the thought of my fellow Americans at home with their four-day weekends, the company of their entire families and a table full of enough food to feed a small country. Today, however, during my second Thanksgiving in Spain as an ESADE student- I'm surprised to find myself with only a shy hint of homesickness. Instead of longing for traditions of the past, I have a new tradition in which to partake.
After class, I will be picking up the ingredients for the creamed spinach I plan to cook for 40 students at our second annual Thanksgiving feast. Being that the MBA lasts only 18 months, it’s infrequent that we have the opportunity to create traditions. This year, we're not starting something new- we're not trying something out that hasn’t been done before. This year, our Thanksgiving celebration will bring with it a familiar quality- Manu with his famous Sangria, Felix busily basting (or whatever it is you do with poultry) the turkey and Vicky with her fabulous all-American apple pie. Thanksgiving in b-school is a new tradition, but a tradition nonetheless. And for that reason, I welcome it into my repertoire of unforgettable pastimes- into my MBA memory bank.
When I was little, after sitting around the Thanksgiving dinner table with my family for hours- full bellied and nearly ready for our early evening naps, we were all acutely aware of the fact that there was something to be done to signify the conclusion of the feast. Every individual- from Nana Annie to eccentric aunt Liss, would stand up on their chairs, place their hands over their hearts- and sing “The Star Spangled Banner” at the tops of their lungs. Being that the only person in the room that could actually carry a tune was my sister, it wasn't a pretty sight. However, our feigned patriotism stands out for me as the symbol of Thanksgiving in my home.
The Witkin clan chorus is family tradition that began at some point with my grandpa’s odd outburst of song, and will continue throughout the generations to come (on my part, at least).
As I got older and didn't live at home anymore- my mom never failed to fly me in for the Thanksgiving festivities. And each year, we continued the singing ritual. In later years, my parents divorced and although our Thanksgiving dinners took place in two different locations, at two different times- we still sang “The Star Spangled Banner” with gusto. And although, as the years have passed, we have suffered the loss of loved ones and welcomed new additions to the family, the custom holds strong and the neighbors can still hear our wailing from down the street.
At some point in the last decade, in addition to our singing, we somehow managed to add another tradition to the mix. I don’t remember exactly when it began or from whom we adapted it- but it is still maintained among family members on Thanksgiving regardless of how far apart we may be.
Now, after all the food and the subsequent singing, we go around the table and ,one-by-one, give thanks for everything good in our lives- everything we appreciate, everything we recognize as a blessing. We were never necessarily patriots, nor are we religious- but I was brought up to "Carpe Diem"- and to appreciate all that I have. Maybe this tradition began because amongst the wine, turkey, tofurky, the chatter, the airport runs, the days and days of shopping and cooking and preparation- Thanksgiving loses its meaning- that is: the day of thanks- the secular type.
I was thinking...if I stand up on my chair at dinner and attempt to hit the high notes shrieking “…and the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air…”, my classmates might finally consider me certifiably crazy. Therefore, I am simply going to stick with giving thanks.
We have about four months left in the MBA, so it seems that now is as good a time as any to define what I am grateful for. Last year, when our first Thanksgiving together came upon us- each friend filled the voids left by family members back home carving the turkey and mashing the potatoes. At that time, this year’s Thanksgiving felt like a lifetime away. Now it’s here and is most probably the last thanksgiving I will ever spend in Spain. That said, I know I have plenty to give thanks for:
I am thankful to Ray, my GMAT tutor, without whom I never would have rocked the math section and therefore, probably wouldn't be doing an MBA.
I am thankful to Mary, the career services dynamo who interviewed me 2 years ago. Not only did meeting her make me hands-down choose ESADE, but she let me in. She had faith that this artsy, creative non-business person would actually be able to succeed in an MBA.
I am thankful to my mom and stepdad Peter, who have given me all the opportunities in the world. They are the ones who pushed me to do an MBA and they are the ones who pay my credit card bill when I realize I have no money left in my Caja Madrid account because the stupid Euro has skyrocked.
I’m thankful to all my friends here at school, who made the MBA what it is- who made the tough parts bearable and the good parts even better. These are the people whose faces I see every morning on the bus when the sun has not yet risen and the faces looking at me from across the room with the same tired eyes or knowing grins.
I am thankful to Papa Louie who began the singing tradition, and who I miss more and more each year.
Most of all, I have to give one more shout-out to my mom who worked her ass off to make every thanksgiving of my childhood and early adulthood extraordinary. We should all be lucky enough to have a mom like mine.