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  • Writer's pictureNancy Nemes

The Connected Turkey: My Thanksgiving Story

This is my story about Thanksgiving – a story of surprises, friendship, values, creativity, and meaning. And of saying thank you to all my friends!

American Style Thanksgivving Dinner - hosted by Aspen, Standford & Harvard

It was November 2004 when we just landed in Seattle, USA (coming from Munich, Germany) to start a new chapter in my life working for Microsoft. As soon as we arrived, new friends and colleagues simply embraced us – and invited us to our first ever Thanksgiving dinner. Right there at its home – in America. You can imagine how we felt - A dream came true!

And so the Turkey tradition continued during our 6-years of living in USA… and we had the chance to spend this wonderful time every year somewhere else - in the families of Jennifer Rudy and Seth Krevat, Marya McCabe and Bill Babonas, Marsha Kabakov, Karen Carter and John Esslinger, Aubrey Edwards and Bernadette Edwards, Claire Bonilla and Kevin Bonilla and Christine Glynn… then later on at Jane Gilson and Ted Bremer house in Munich – imagine this: Two Americans inviting two Romanians and few other friends to have turkey in Munich… (and yes, Jane and Ted – we should be there today with you, at your house by Dublin…)

In all of these families, it didn’t matter if you were family or friend, local or not, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or agnostic… you were simply embraced and made part of the family right away. We had fun cutting the turkey, passing the dishes along the table, and sharing wonderful, moving stories of what each one of us was thankful for in this life.

Time and again, I was struck by the easiness of how it was all done: the get-together, the cooking, the sharing, the stories, the decoration. Ewige Wiederkunft! Thank you all, guys!! We are not often together physically, but the Connected Turkey is always with us – a great memory to share 😊

Fast forward 15 years, and yesterday evening, my husband and I have joined an American Style Thanksgiving dinner in Berlin which was co-hosted by an incredible partnership: The Aspen Leadership Program with the Harvard Alumni Club and the German Stanford Association. The dinner took place in a spectacular mansion on the lake Wannsee by Berlin, belonging to the historic Berliner Ruder Club (founded in 1880). This was a special event for a number of reasons. First, the hosts who demonstrated true global leadership by joining their forces. Collaboration, not walls!

Then the deeply touching conversation between Aspen’s Executive Director Rüdiger Lentz and Stanford Professor of German Studies and Comparative Literature Amir Eshel as well as Thomas Sparr, head of the publishing house Suhrkamp Verlag. They discussed the new poetry book by Professor Eshel based on his personal encounter with Gerhard Richter and his work. As they told us, Eshel met Richter as he wanted to learn more about Richter’s four-part painting series Birkenau, which commemorates the Holocaust. The conversation about the book was held in English, the poems read in German by Lentz and in Hebrew by Eshel. And the Korean pianist Shihyun Lee played Mendelssohn’s “Lieder ohne Worte” with a beautiful mix of delicacy and force.

All of a sudden, I felt struck by an invisible force which made me stop for a moment and wonder what had just happened! A word, an image, the tonality of a voice, a piano beat - stirring something in me, in all of us – you could see it on people’s faces… a feeling of cohesion, a half-forgotten memory, the impression we’ve been there already. A bittersweet and accurate feeling of belonging: To the history, to that place, to that crowd…

And then there was the generosity of a new friend who, without knowing me, just offered to buy the book for me when I realized we only had Romanian Lei in our pocket – oh, this globalization 😊 Thank you, Ana Trbovich!

Here is to a great example of the kind of memorable creativity you can generate by joining forces, thinking diverse and staying real. Long live the Connected Turkey!

I am thankful!

Nancy Nemes

Berlin, 23 Nov, 2018

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