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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving: What's Your Story?


I wasn't born in America; I just got here as fast as I could.

(I know it’s a cheesy line, but it’s the holidays!)

For my first five Thanksgivings, ('96 to '00) I didn’t care about the holiday, so I volunteered to work at my restaurant, allowing other managers some quality time with their family.

Then, all of a sudden, I found myself working for a place that was closed for Thanksgiving.

And, I didn't know what to do with myself.

(I was new to California and had no friends or family close by.)

A running buddy of mine, also from Ireland, found out my situation while at a dinner party the night before Thanksgiving.

"Hang on a second," says Brian.

He grabs his phone, makes a quick call, and passes the phone to me.

"It's for you."


"Hello, Mark? Yes, this is Brian's mother, Pauline. Brian tells me you've nowhere to go for Thanksgiving?"

"No, ma'am..."

"Right you are, then. Dinner is served at 3 p.m., and just bring yourself."

"Your mother just hung up on me," I said to Brian, who was smiling like that Cheshire Cat.

"That's me ma."

Needless to say, I had an absolutely wonderful time at their house, where they made me feel like one of the family. And it was inside that small, loving home that I finally "got" the meaning of Thanksgiving.

My life has changed (as it does) and now my wife and two kids are looking forward to spending another Thanksgiving with some new and old friends.

But, I'll never forget that first one, and whenever we are hosting and I find a "homeless" friend, I always pay it forward by inviting them to join us. It doesn’t cost anything, and it’s not as if we were going to finish the turkey for weeks.

(Footnote... a month after I first met Pauline and her family, she was back on the phone with me on Christmas Eve.)

I was getting ready to have a quiet Christmas. Pauline had other ideas...

No prizes for where I was at 3 p.m. Christmas Day!

What's your top memory of Thanksgiving, and if you could invite one extra person (living or deceased) to the table who would it be?

(My invitation would go to the late U.S. Army Major Dick Winters, former CO of Easy Company – of “Band of Brothers” fame.)
Maj. Richard "Dick" Winters


Anonymous said...

What a fun first Thanksgiving. For me, I've always had it. I don't specifically have a most special memory. But, one thanksgiving we re-enacted the landing on plymouth rock. That was fun.

And who would I invite? Maybe my mother's father. He passed away before I was born, and I would like to meet him.

ps, you're irish?

Mark Koopmans said...

Aloha Mel,

I think that's hilarious - doing the Plymouth Rock thing - good idea whoever came up with that one!

And, yes, I was born and reared in Dublin, but split like an amoeba as soon as I was done with school.

So, instead of saying I'm Irish-American, I say American-Irish:)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That was a really nice thing your friend Brian did for you. Glad you finally discovered Thanksgiving - and now have your own family with which to share the holiday!

Mark Koopmans said...

Alex: Mahalo for the comments and yeah, when I look back, it's amazing that I *thought* I was happy, but now I *know* I'm happy:)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Sarah Tokeley said...

What a wonderful story. I don't celebrate Thanksgiving but if I did I'd love to have my parents, and my brother and his family around my table. They live abroad and it's been way too long.

Mark Koopmans said...

Aloha Sarah,

Mahalo, and yeah, it's been fun "learning" how to do Thanksgiving.

You know what you should do... start a family petition and offer to host the inaugural Interational Get-the-Pearson's Together Day:)

Maeve Frazier said...

Mark - what a wonderful story! So, you are from Ireland, my family is from Roscommon. I also noticed in your bio that you are co-writing a memoir. I cannot wait to read it. I absolutely love opera and cannot wait to read the story. My special invitation to Thanksgiving would go out to both my mom and mother-in-law, who have both passed away. They were two amazing women, who still continue to help me find my way even after having lost them.

Green Monkey said...

Hmmm... you've got me thinking Mark. I remember being a kid and spending thanksgivings with my father - skiing in vermont. dinner would be at a restaurant. I loved it.

if I could spend the day with anyone.....anyone at all... just one person....it would be my son who passed on in 2002 at the age of 23

Rachael Harrie said...

That's a lovely story Mark! So glad you found such wonderful acceptance :) Hope you've had a lovely Thanksgiving.



Mark Koopmans said...

Maeve: Up the "Oirish!"

Shannon: You are so cool, they should name a river after you!

Rach: My mom bought a copy of "Campaigner Challenges 2011" and quote: "I squealed when I saw your name, son":)

To the three of you: Mahalo for commenting. I *really* appreciate you taking the time, *especially* this weekend!

Alan said...

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