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Thanksgiving with Madama Butterfly: The Story of a First Holiday Away From Home.

We all hung on the tremor of her voice. There was no need for the words that spread their life-less forms across the thin blinking banner below the stage. This was beyond them.

It wasn’t a song. It wasn’t a melody. The air was full instead, of the tragically beautiful hope that had poisoned her soul. The only thing to do was to let ourselves crumple onto the stage with her; ravaged and alone. She carried me on her delicate silk wings until I rested my heart within hers; it’s final beat spattering my face in tears.

We made our way home through the thick Bucuresti night; our taxi swishing and swerving with mad determination. From the sea of cherished Thanksgivings in my mind, I knew this was one I would never forget.

I had opened my eyes that morning to a sharp pang of home sicknesses. As I lay in bed and let myself wake, it slowly grew and decided to nestle itself into my morning. I swiftly reminded it that there would be turkey at my parent’s home, but I was a vegetarian. There would be sweet potatoes, but I never liked them anyway. What is in a mere day after all? But no, the pang would not subside and my shoulders drooped in nostalgia when I realized my family would already be in the kitchen at this hour. There would be green beans smothered in creamy mushroom sauce with crispier than air onions quivering near the edge of the platter… There would be coconut cream pie… Never mind all that! I had received a call from DHL yesterday; my package was ready and waiting.

My fiancé and I lugged the box home through the streets and subways of that big, rain soaked city. It was all grey. It was all puddles. It was all sticky wind and fallen leaves. But I had my box, from home. I called my mother and she guided me through each delicious delicacy that rain spattered cardboard creature contained. There was Cranberry Apple Butter, from Trader Joe’s. TraderJoe’s! I picked it up and ran my finger over the smooth red label hoping there was something of New York’s air left on its skin. After I thanked her, she was quiet and passed the phone to my father. We said nothing of the fact that it was my first Thanksgiving away from home but it hung heavily in the air between our two continents; unspoken and alive. They were setting the table for dinner but it wasn’t noon here yet. The phone clicked and went silent; the spell was broken.

I busied myself with unpacking my new treasure; holding each item and then dutifully arranging those jars with their heavy glass bodies on the door of my refrigerator. I beamed at their presence with the pride of a small child. They clamored and protested as the door swished closed, shutting the light away from their faces. My fiancé peered into the remainder of the box’s contents with curious amusement.

“No turkey in here?” he said, in English, as he poked around in the box mischievously.

I smiled at him, at my parent’s sentimental gesture, and at how surreal everything felt. The day floated on, drenched in the banality of waiting for it to pass until at last we concocted a meal from the belly of our American box and our Romanian refrigerator. There was no coconut cream pie at the end, there was only getting into a taxi going towards the Teatru National.

The lights of the opera house dimmed, at last, as the orchestra wildly threw themselves into their strings.

Photo by: Daniel Balan, 2008