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Global Pen Pals

Letter 9 in our series.

Dear Joy,

The much-beloved American holiday of Thanksgiving (which commemorates the ceremony of "Thanks" held by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in their new land) has come and gone. And we have gone and come -- to Boston and back. There's a traditional American song about Thanksgiving that goes, "Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go, the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifting snow". Well, these Grandparents went to the Grandchildren's (and children's) house through the white and drifting clouds.

The night before Thanksgiving, Mordy and Anna made pumpkin pies. On Thanksgiving Day we all spent the whole day in the kitchen. Jessica made stuffing; I made broth for the base of the giblet gravy, and, later, the gravy; Mordy stuffed and sewed the turkey; Ben snapped the beans; and we all helped set the table. The cranberry sauce had accompanied us on the trip from Baltimore, and Jessica's mother and sister brought cheeses, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green salad and fruit salad. The Pilgrims would have been proud, and the thirteen of us sat down to a scrumptious meal!

Thanksgiving dinner wasn't the only 'fine dining' experience of the weekend. Friday night we ate at The Cheesecake Factory (an American restaurant chain where only the dessert qualifies as "fine") after a long afternoon of Black Friday shopping. The Friday after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday because that is traditionally the day of the year when the profit numbers of large retail stores move from "red' (unprofitable) to "black" (profitable). We helped push the numbers into the black! Ben, who eats like half a bird, devoured an entire huge serving of cheesecake all by himself and didn't even have a stomachache! We all sat dumbfounded watching him do it!!

Saturday night we joined an old, old friend from medical school days, his third wife, a not-so-old friend, who is originally from Argentina, and his son from wife #2 and his wife, who is from Prague, the Czech Republic, for dinner. An international "stew" at an Italian restaurant. Talk and wine flowed freely, and all agreed that it was, indeed, a "fine dining" experience. On Sunday morning we went walking through the streets of Jessica and Marc's beautiful neighborhood, replete with beautiful homes surrounded by ancient trees. Sunday afternoon was a fine experience, too: a concert for flute, cello and piano at a church. Ben later said that it was his last day of freedom, and we made him go to "that dumb concert". So much for feeding culture to the children! Dining, playing games, walking, listening to music: all told, a glorious weekend.

Since I last wrote, the U.S. mid-term elections have taken place, and as I'm sure you now know, the Democrats have taken back control of the House of Representatives and the Senate after twelve years as the minority party. During the election campaigns, one of the pundits remarked that the Democrats had better watch out what they wished for! And how! Now the Republicans will able to blame the Democrats for the Iraq and Afghanistan messes; the tinderboxes in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories; the Korean and Iran nuclear threats; and most of the battles in other flash points around the globe. At least the Pope is responsible for having offended the Muslims in Turkey, not Bush!

Meanwhile, the U.S. dollar continues to weaken against the euro, and Wal-Mart posted a drop in same-store sales figures last month. The chain has such a large position in the U.S. retail universe that just a blip in its profits can wreak havoc with the stock market here. For older Americans on fixed incomes, this whole scenario is truly frightening.

On a brighter note, we here in Baltimore have just experienced the most beautiful autumn anyone can remember! Often, oak and maple leaves fall off of the trees before they take on their autumn hues. But this year they clung to the branches while turning colors, and it was a stunning array of oranges, yellows, reds and golds that greeted us as we looked out onto the woods at the back of our house. Robert Frost would have written a poem. We simply stood and took in the beauty of the scene.

We wish you a beautiful holiday season, Joy, and we send hugs and kisses to you, the children and Maxi.

Much love,

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