I’m an American living in Ireland. Thanksgiving Day comes and goes with great fanfare in the States, but I usually forget the date. (I had to ask my facebook friends when Thanksgiving was going to be.) This Thanksgiving, for example, my husband is taking a class in the evening, and I will be boiling pasta for the kids. Everyone, who has a job, is working today. Everyone is working tomorrow. Schools are in session. And we don’t have sales until January over here, so no “Black Friday” fun for me.
Yesterday, the Irish government presented an outline of a series of spending cuts and tax increases to be applied for the next four years. The cuts are severe, and sure to contract the economy. We have to accept these new financial restrictions, we are told, so that we can pay back the massive Irish government deficit, mainly incurred trying to prop up our banking system. The IMF and EU central bank was called in over this. They have, in effect, dictated the terms. My family’s financial circumstances are a reflection of the state of the nation.
But, this doesn’t mean I’m not thankful. I am. My kids are healthy. Well, one has a cough and the other an ear infection, but you know what I mean – they’ll get over it. We’re well fed. We’ve cut out filet steaks and pate, but I made a damn fine beef stew last night. The cars are running (more or less). The lights are on. My husband is in good health. I’m enjoying my writing projects of late. And, I’m falling slowly in love with Twitter. Life, financially, is fairly crappy. I say no a lot to the kids over sweets and toys in the supermarket when we’re out.
Oddly, as the economic downturn in Ireland has taken us in its grip, sunk its teeth into our flesh and started chewing, my mood has lightened. Through the emotional freefall of loosing work, pay cuts, tax increases, falling house prices, the lot, I have felt strangely liberated. I feel free. It must be all the time setting my own schedule (that’s a laugh; really my schedule is dictated by the kids). But...they’re napping right now, and I’m writing on the laptop. I look out the window and the sky is blue, the hills are green, the rooks are evacuating the farmer’s field across the way in favour of the trees behind my house. The cattle are in the sheds for the winter, but we occasionally hear their lowing drift on the wind from their winter shelter to our garden patio. The weather—cold and crisp—is dry.
Thanksgiving has come to Ireland.