Tradition Speaks

My eyebrows furrowed.

Thanksgiving. . . Tomorrow?

Staring at the American calendar in my hand, I blurted the discovery.

“Ann, take a look at this calendar. Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving.”

“Really? You sure?”

For two months Swahili studies had taken most of my time. Noun classes – prefixes – infixes – suffixes – vocabulary. . . my Okie tongue wrestling non-stop with a host of Bantu sounds.

Language classes this Wednesday had wrapped up like any other.  Leaving the school’s Anglican compound I returned to our apartment. It was there I noticed the calendar that had come with us from the U.S. Lying open to the current month. November.

The surprise arrival of Thanksgiving Eve stirred emotion. I felt mildly indignant that such a great holiday should count as just another pair of digits on a calendar page. An irrational feeling for one living in another country, but a feeling all the same.

Thanksgiving’s tomorrow but so are Swahili classes. Well. . .

The contest inside my head was brief.

“Honey, I’m cutting classes tomorrow. How about a picnic?”

Thanksgiving Day of 1972 arrived gorgeous.  Only months earlier Kentucky Fried Chicken had launched their finger-lickin’ enterprise here in Nairobi itself.  What figure better reflects American tradition than Colonel Sanders?

Ann bundled our four-month-old in a colorful blanket. The aroma of fried chicken filled our Volkswagen beetle as we set out for City Park.

A garden of jacaranda and bougainvillea surrounded us under sunny skies. A light breeze stirred as I laid out the blanket.

We sat cross-legged, casually reviewing Thanksgivings of our past. The memories stirred gratitude.

Our infant Julie gurgled. I took in the garden environment and voiced our thanks to him who made it all. For bringing us to this beautiful, hurting land. For one another here, out under the open sky. For family back home.

Turning to Ann, I voiced my request with care, applying the polite form,

“Kuku, tafadhali (Some chicken please?)”

We laughed at my language exercise for the day.

It would have to do.

©2017 Jerry Lout



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