“Set ... hut ... HIKE!”
Steve dropped back into the pocket as the other Steve and I crossed in front, slammed into each other, spun dramatically and screamed in an effort to distract the opposing team so that Rachel could receive the pass.
Under the hazy blue sky, in the middle of a brown field scattered with broken glass, stones and dog poop, I hit the ground hard. My face buried in the dirt of a park in northern Prague, far from the cozy households just waking up back in the states, I got a strange feeling. It felt like Thanksgiving.
Of course, there is no better way to bring a slice of an American holiday to Bohemia than a good game of American football. But still, surrounded by the bland residential section of the blue-collar suburb LetnÂ , the gothic shadow of St. Vitus Cathedral rising into the sky not far off, Turkey Day seemed an alien concept at first. I was not on break at home like the rest of my friends and fellow students at AU. In fact, the concept of a Thanksgiving break slipped my mind completely until I started receiving e-mails from friends saying that they were home.
This semester has been so full of new experiences and wonders that I haven’t had a moment’s time to get homesick. I’ve missed people, but not necessarily home. My mind has been occupied by the splendor of Prague, which seems to flower even as the good weather wilts. Giant Christmas trees have sprung up in all the squares of the city. The facade of the monstrous supermarket complex Tesco is covered in white lights. Yuletide has stormed Prague, and with it has come some nostalgia for home. Home is where the heart is, they say, but the heart is strong enough to love and exist in more than one location, right? So perhaps “home is where the rump rests” is more accurate. I’m here, right now, and it’s home.
That night, the program rented out a neighborhood pub for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s redundant to say it was a traditional American-style Thanksgiving feast, but that’s what it was: whole golden-brown turkeys, pumpkin soup, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cooked vegetables. Merriment with friends and teachers. Tasted like home to me. So perhaps home is where the rump roasts.
After dinner, I promised to play some Czech folk songs on the piano. I did so, and the few Czechs who were there sang along, but most of the songs weren’t particularly catchy or melodic and most of us, myself included, lacked enthusiasm for them. This music did not fit with the occasion. But then Pepi, our fearless program director, made a grand entrance into the room with his accordion and a smirk on his face. He sat down on a stool and launched into a spirited rendition of “Oh, Susanna!”
Now this was something we could sing. The place livened up, our interests and emotions peaked by familiarity. This indescribable feeling of the familiar set against the foreign, of past against present - this feeling was home. Home, as it turns out, is the very thought of it.