November 2015

Thoughts about Thanks and Giving

by Rebecca Bricker on November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving is the holiday I miss the most, living in a distant land.

But I have a fun assignment this Thursday. I’m doing a read-aloud at the Florence Children’s Lending Library. I’ve chosen a picture book called The Night Before Thanksgiving by Natasha Wing, inspired by the beloved Clement Moore Christmas classic. It begins…

Twas the night before Thanksgiving
and all through the nation
families got ready
for the big celebration.

The charming verses tell the story of our American Thanksgiving tradition: Kids in front of the TV watching the Macy’s parade. Friends and family arriving by plane, train and taxi. (In this tale, Uncle Norm gets caught in a storm, but makes it home in time, thanks to the kindness of a stranger.)

There’s the cacophony of young cousins playing computer games and making Pilgrim hats for a skit they’re going to perform for the grown-ups…



And when Mom wasn’t looking, our narrator confesses, “we stuck olives on fingers” and claimed “they were puppets and grand opera singers.” This may give the young Italians in the library audience this Thursday some ideas about re-purposing olives, which of course, are in abundance here this time of year. 😉

The purpose of the Children’s Lending Library is to provide English-language books and DVDs for children learning English. Many of the children who come to the library are Italian-born, perhaps with an English-speaking parent. Some are from other countries and continents whose parents have taken jobs in Florence and may be here for just a short time. Sometimes children come from a French school in the neighborhood. It’s a delightful mix of cultures.


I am so grateful to be a part of an amazing global community, often meeting people who have traveled great distances from their homes, too. There’s camaraderie in that, I’ve found. We link arms with each other. We share our stories, our photos, our traditions, our recipes.

I’ve made wonderful friends on this journey. I’ve already had to say good-bye to a few as they’ve moved on to the next chapters of their lives. Those last hugs tug hard at my heart.

I give thanks every day for the opportunities I have to explore this complex world of ours. Even when the news is tragic, I know that there’s goodness everywhere. Truly at every turn, there’s goodness.

I was lost a few evenings ago, looking for a sewing-machine shop. The neighborhood was a crisscross of streets. Even my phone’s GoogleMaps app was confused. I went into a bakery where there were three Italian women waiting at the counter — young and not-so-young. They got into a very animated conversation (as is amusingly common here ;)) about which direction I should go. One of the older women knew the way and literally took me in hand.

“But what about your bread?” I asked her as we walked out the door. She was leaving without whatever it was she had come for.

It didn’t matter, she said. She hooked our arms together and walked me two blocks down the street. I told her where I was from. She said it was her dream to visit California. (I hear that often in my travels: “Ah, California!”) We crossed the street and turned a corner. She pointed to a brightly lit “SINGER” sign. Then she hugged me and kissed me on both cheeks.

“Saluti” to California, she said, waving and smiling as she walked away. A random act of incredible kindness.

On days when the news is especially bad, I have a song on my iPod that I play. I’ve shared the song and its video-gone-viral more than once on my Facebook page. It’s called “Trip the Light” by Matt Harding and Alicia Lemke…

If all the days that come to pass
Are behind these walls
I’ll be left at the end of things
In a world kept small
Travel far from what I know
I’ll be swept away
I need to know I can be lost
And not afraid
We’re gonna trip the light
We’re gonna break the night
And we’ll see with new eyes
When we trip the light
Remember we’re lost together
Remember we’re the same
We hold the burning rhythm in our hearts
We hold the flame
I’ll find my way home
On the western wind
To a place that was once my world
Back from where I’ve been
And in the morning light I’ll remember
As the sun will rise
We are all the glowing embers
Of a distant fire

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. Have some pumpkin pie for me. And don’t forget the opera-singing olives — a little Verdi might be nice. 😉








Illustrations by Tammie Lyon, The Night Before Thanksgiving (Grosset & Dunlap, 2001)

 P.S. I’m making a quilt on that sewing machine I bought. The pattern is called (appropriately) Trip Around the World. :)