For nearly as long as I can remember, I’ve thought of the end of the first week of August as an inflection point between the seasons of summer and fall. It’s about equally spaced between the summer solstice and the equinox, but more importantly, it seems that wherever I’ve lived, whether that’s Russia, Texas, Maryland, or England, it’s when the first hint of fall shows up in the air. I felt the same thing a few days ago, and it reminded me that I still haven’t written about some of the distinctly autumnal events of last year.
Although we were in Ibiza on the last day of October, we were still able to celebrate a traditional Halloween with all of the other Americans from work. Elena dressed up as a fairy, and Roman got to be Thomas the train. Having experienced the Halloween celebration previously, we knew how crazy it would be at the party in the gym, so we went in with just one goal: to get the childrens’ faces painted, even if it meant enduring a long queue. Unfortunately, I was absent for much of the evening as I tried to get a dental problem taken care of; it wasn’t much fun for me or for anyone else. I did get that resolved by the appointed time for trick or treating to begin, so I was able to participate in that part. This was the first year that Roman really understood what was going on. He did a good job of saying his line, and by the end of the night I didn’t even have to remind him to say “Thank you” at every door. Elena wanted to go at a somewhat faster pace, so Jenny went with her, and they also had a good evening.
As I mentioned previously, the British celebration that nearly coincides with Halloween is Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night, when Guy Fawkes is burned in effigy, because of his involvement in the Gunpowder Plot. In Elena’s school class, “Holidays and Celebrations” was a major theme of their first term. One day at dinner, when we asked Elena about what she had done in school that day, she told us the complete and very detailed story of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. It was very impressive, but at the same time it seemed strange that the teachers had discussed serious and violent things so plainly with kindergarten students.
Our Thanksgiving was memorable, but mostly in bad ways. The best part was that I got to go to Elena’s class on Thanksgiving morning to give a brief presentation on this very American holiday. In addition to talking about the history and the Thanksgiving meal, I showed some pictures from when Elena was a baby and we went to New York for the parade. After that, things went swiftly downhill, due largely to a stomach bug that swept through our family. Jenny wasn’t feeling well, so she stayed behind while we went over to the home where we had been invited to share Thanksgiving dinner. At the very moment that someone opened the door to welcome us in, Roman was violently ill all over himself and their entryway. Despite this, they insisted that we not go home, and I was glad that we stayed. The food was really good, and the rest of the afternoon passed without incident. We had offered to host a second Thanksgiving dinner the next day, because one of our friends had to work on Thanksgiving. Everything was fine until both Roman and Elena graphically demonstrated that the illness had not yet run its course. It really took the air out of the festivities; our guests left as quickly and politely as they could. We felt terrible, but that seems to be the way with Thanksgiving—most years it’s wonderful, but once in a while it’s a real turkey.