As October slipped into November, and the last Thursday of the month came rushing towards us, I was asked quite frequently what my plans were for Thanksgiving, and whether Australians celebrate Turkey Day.

I realize this column would have been more appropriately timed last Sunday, but I broke character and got all serious on you all for a minute there. Fear not, regular service — i.e. tales of excessive consumption and sentimentality — has resumed.

In short, no, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving Down Under. Our colonial history, while somewhat similar, didn’t include a three-day feast after the first harvest, but we have other commemorative holidays anyway.

I was originally intending to drive to New York to spend the holiday with some close friends for the second year running, but since I had to be back at work Friday afternoon, a six-plus-hour road trip each way wasn’t too appealing with that turnaround.

I had received a couple of other offers, but when Deanna, a friend of mine who owns a Hallowell bar, asked me early in November, “So what do Aussie implants do on Thanksgiving day?” and subsequently invited me to “Friendsgiving,” there was no way I could say no. I mean, when have I ever turned down the chance to spend a day in a bar?

It was a great day at that. I showed up around 1:30 p.m. with a hangover, a spare shirt (in case of spillage/overstuffing) and the ingredients to put together Australian-style sausage rolls, as my appetizer contribution.

The sausage rolls were a bust — tasted great, looked awful — and it’s apparent that I will never be a pastry chef, but thankfully I also brought a bunch of beer to smooth things over just in case.

Deanna and her mom Coby put on an incredible spread. I’m still thinking about the green bean casserole and the stuffing, which was so good it’d make even the most conscientious of dieters fall off the wagon.

And then, after we were all about to slump into post-dinner nap mode … the bar opened to the public for all the people who were rightfully tired of their pesky families’ company. They didn’t have much to be grateful for: They got stuck with my company instead.

Coby told us that their family Thanksgiving tradition is for everyone around the table to say what they’re thankful for this year. Since we had a big table, we didn’t all take part, but that’s just as well because it may have taken me hours to get through all of mine.

But luckily I’ve got a bit of a platform to write all about it right here. So in 2014, I’m thankful for:

All of the people who’ve supported me this year.

From dropping me off at the airport in Denver before I moved here, to sending Christmas care packages, to teaching me how to survive Maine winters or just counseling me with a problem via email, I’ve got so many great people in my life who have been such great foundations on which I’ve been able to build a life out here, 10,000 miles away from home.

All of the great new friends I’ve made in Maine.

I wrote at length a couple weeks ago about how it was more challenging than I expected to make friends from scratch. Slowly but surely, though, it’s happened. While I’m perfectly happy in my own company, and I’m extremely independent even socially, it feels good to have people to go on adventures, grab a beer or just shoot the breeze with. Love you guys.

An employer who’s taken a chance on me.

Obviously I was an unknown quantity when I first arrived here last year. I had a ton of Australian media experience, but that doesn’t necessarily directly translate to working in another country. I applied for dozens of jobs. Hundreds, even. The Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinel was one of just two places who gave me a phone interview, and for some reason my bosses decided to roll the dice on me and bring me on board. They even let me write a column, the first regular feature of my career. Putting my face in print is probably an even bigger gamble.

All of the cool things I’ve done and experienced here.

I never in a million years would’ve assumed that I’d go blueberry picking, or drive across an international border, or watch maple syrup being made, or set aside time to clear four inches of snow covering my car in the mornings. This year has been a huge learning curve but it’s also proved something I’ve often thought: that if you stay open-minded to things, you’ll be richly rewarded.

All of the cool things that are in my future.

I can’t really be thankful for something that hasn’t happened yet, I guess, but hey: if this is how great a year I’ve had in central Maine, the sky really is the limit. This really is the land of opportunity.

All of the people who read this stuff, Sunday after Sunday.

I certainly never thought I’d get such a good response from people I’ve met, and received emails from, who make a point of reading some of the musings I peddle every other Sunday. Even though sometimes I’ve inwardly groaned “oh man, what am I going to write for the column this week?” I feel like I’ve developed as a writer since I’ve been here. And best of all, I’ve come across more and more people in the course of my week — especially on Sundays behind the bar — who want to give me their own perspectives on the topics I’ve explored. That’s one hell of a rewarding thing as well.

So even if I didn’t grow up celebrating Turkey Day, its customary dishes and traditions, I’ve definitely had a lot to be appreciative of over the past 12 months. I hope you all had a great holiday too.

Adrian Crawford is a Web editor at the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. Email him at [email protected]. Maine Walkabout is published the first and third Sundays of each month. More of his adventures in Vacationland can be found at www.crawfinusa.com.


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