My dorm room which was private, overlooked a small street and an ancient Roman wall. I was still in awe of all the buildings and artifacts from Winchester's history--Winchester Cathedral, Jane Austin's home, St. Catherine's Hill, a hill fort mentioned in a Thomas Hardy novel, the old pubs, and Winchester College, a public school I visited and so much more. I often thought if I could just place all the memories and atmosphere in a bottle and inhale them from time to time, to revisit this special time in my life, it would be wonderful.
Thanksgiving was a few days away and we were all feeling very homesick. We had been in Winchester since September and even though the experience was rewarding in so many ways, we were missing our family and friends.
In our student mail boxes we all received an invitation -- to a Thanksgiving dinner to be held in the main dining hall (not as elaborate as the one in Harry Potter), but large enough for all our meals. What could this mean, we all thought? Thanksgiving, we knew, is not celebrated in Britain.
Thanksgiving day arrived. We dressed up for the occasion and walked to the dining hall. It was beautiful. The staff had made such an effort to make our American holiday special for us. The cafeteria was transformed -- complete with candles, table cloths, sherry and wine. I was seated next to John Cramner, King Alfred's College principal (a special seat for mature students?).
Mr. Camner was the epitome of a British gentleman, handsome, white haired, and a good conversationalist. I learned all about "Bread Sauce" which I had never had before and was told by Mrs. Cramner that I could buy it at Sainsbury's. After the toasts, we began the meal which did include turkey. I had to do a reality check, here I was so far from home, having Thanksgiving dinner in England with the head of a British college.
I even remember singing, "My Country 'Tis of Thee," and the Brits singing "God Save Our Gracious Queen." We felt so welcome, thanks to our British hosts.
As we walked back to our dorm rooms in the twilight, our homesickness disappeared, and we counted as our very good fortune, the opportunity to study and learn and experience a unique city in the United Kingdom, Winchester.
A Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, even if you do not celebrate the holiday and a special thanks to my husband who made the adventure in England possible for me while he stayed in California for three months and ate frozen dinners.
PS King Alfred's College is now the University of Winchester.
Any special Thanksgiving memories that you remember?