Two days ago I celebrated my first ever Thanksgiving. I spent the morning at work; serving beautiful, excited families that made me miss home. Then I came home from the freezing cold to my warm, cosy apartment where my gorgeous roommate had left a Pumpkin Pie for everyone to try. I had a hot bath to get the feeling back into my frozen toes and got ready to go next door for Thanksgiving dinner with some of my favourite people.
Once I was settled with a chair and a drink I had a slight worry that someone was going to get us all to go around and say what we were thankful for. I knew that when it came to me I'd say something ridiculous like peanut butter cups (of course I am hugely grateful for peanut butter cups but I'm not totally sure that's the kind of thing you're meant to say at these gatherings), and I think that might sound ever so slightly rude and ungrateful when I'm surrounded by these amazing people, eating a delicious, home-cooked meal with Harry Potter playing in the background.
But I have far too much to be grateful for. If I had listed everything that I have to be thankful for we would still be sitting there now.
So last night, when I was discussing this fact with my roommate and deciding exactly what I should mention here, she said that I should be thankful for November.
I think she's right. If I were to write to you now about everything that I am thankful for this year, you would never get to the end. But a lot of amazing things happened to me in November- I may even go as far as to say that it's been the best month of the year so far- and I am so thankful for every single day of this month. Here are my favourites....
1. Bonfire Night.
So much happened on Bonfire Night this year that I don't even know where to start explaining how brilliant it was. I arrived at work at 11.15 am to find that a whole party had been set up. There were buffet tables set up with delicious hot food, drinks and- my ultimate favourite- bakewell tarts; there were tables decorated in UK colours and covered in scarecrows to be burned, there were special Mickey-shaped UK pins to be worn for the day and kept as souvenirs, and to top it all off, a very enthusiastic cast member- one of the best people that I work with, in fact- explaining the story of Guy Fawkes to anyone and everyone that walked by. Everyone was in good spirits and the day flew by in a whirlwind of confused Americans and an excellent quiz that was clearly written by a confused American, for confused Americans, about a UK tradition (including questions such as what is English for goodbye?).
That evening I fulfilled every 90s kid's dream by watching Hanson in concert in the pouring rain (I'm not sure whether the rain is in the dream but I feel like it only added to the experience), then went to Magic Kingdom to experience Disney Christmas for the first time ever.
I cannot explain how magical it was.
When I first walked in it felt like we were pretending-the weather was relatively warm and time has gone so quickly that to me it still feels like August- so to be looking at Christmas lights was surreal. Then it got later. We went into Starbucks for Christmas-flavour drinks and came out into what was by now a fairly cold evening. I snuggled into my hoody, took a sip of my Peppermint Mocha and looked up at the lights again.
Suddenly they were real and it was the most magical I'd felt my whole programme.
I am so thankful for the fact that I was given the opportunity to work for the best company in the world for a whole year, and I'm thankful that every single day exceeds expectations.
2. Book Of Mormon
Those of you that know me well will know that my favourite musical is Avenue Q. I have been to see it more times than I can count (actually that isn't true. I've been to see it six times. I can count to six).It never gets old. So when Dale got tickets to see a show made by the same people I was more than excited- despite his protestations that it was far too rude for me.
I will admit it was rude. Not ruder than Avenue Q just rude...in a different way. It takes quite a lot to offend me and even my eyes were wider than saucers at one point.
It was amazing.
If you haven't seen it (and you're not easily offended), please go. But please don't make my dad's mistake.
I'm going to make this very clear, for those of you on the same page as my father.
Book Of Mormon is written by the same people that wrote Avenue Q. It is not the same show.
They are not similar in any way other than that they are made by the same people and are both quite rude.
Here's how the conversation with my dad went the day after I saw it:
Dad: I saw that you wrote on your brother's Facebook that you saw Book Of Mormon. Bit like Avenue Q wasn't it?
Rebecca: Mm it's nothing like Avenue Q really, I just wrote that it's more offensive than Avenue Q.
Dad: Oh okay. So do you think you'll go and see that five more times?
Rebecca: No, why?
Dad: Just you went to see Avenue Q about six times didn't you?
Rebecca: Yes, because Avenue Q is my favourite show. I loved Book Of Mormon but it's not the same show.
Dad: Oh okay. So is Book Of Mormon puppets too?
I am so thankful that my dad continues to make me laugh even from this far away.
3. Osbourne Lights.
So when I met Dale in June one of the first things that he told me was that he was excited for the Hollywood Studios Christmas lights. He's spent Christmas here before and they were one of the highlights for him. Which means that these lights had been built up for me for five whole months before I finally got to see them. On the day that they were finally turned on, I went to the park by myself while he was at work and spent the afternoon buying hot drinks to keep warm, watching the Beauty and the Beast show and drawing Tigger in the animation class. On coming out of the class I bumped into my very own Tigger, one of my best friends here, and spent the next hour wandering the park with him until it was time for him to settle down for the lights and for me to meet Dale.
It was really cold that night- something that I greatly needed to feel Christmassy and therefore massively appreciated.
As we were stood in the cold, surrounded by the huge crowd of people that had gathered in the mock-Streets-of-America, I felt like I really could have been in a busy city. The streets themselves are so realistic but filled with real, tired, cold, excited families, blacked-out Christmas decorations and loud music, it could have been any Christmas-light-switch-on across the globe.
Until it started.
First it started to snow, and despite the ridiculous man next to me shouting 'it's not real snow, it's fake' unnecessarily and repeatedly in my ear, it was magical.
Then the lights came on.
You know how you can see where the lights are before they come on?
I had thought I could see them all.
I was wrong.
They were everywhere.
And they danced to Christmas songs, in the snow, in front of real families in the freezing cold. I loved it.
I am so thankful that I'm spending Christmas in the most magical place on earth.
4. Discovery Cove
Around a month ago I happened to bump into Ariel on the bus and she explained that her family were here. She told me that, obviously- being Ariel, she was going to take her cousins swimming with dolphins. When I exclaimed that I was sure that would be brilliant, she asked whether I would like to go with them.
I accepted. Swimming with dolphins and Ariel has to be the dream surely?
It was fab.
We spent the day eating far too much, laughing far too hard and seeing things that we never thought we would see.
We swam with a gorgeous dolphin named Latoya. The experience was absolutely fantastic and one that I will never forget, but it wasn't the only amazing thing about the day. We got to swim in a pool of every creature that you see in Finding Nemo (except sharks), we held and fed birds, we saw otters, we even managed to just lay in the sun and relax for a while.
This day was a real dream come true and I am so, so thankful that I was lucky enough to experience it.
5. Gingerbread House.
A couple of weeks ago when I got to work one of the girls that I work with asked me whether I had plans that evening. I actually did have plans but they were super boring so I decided not to admit to them and knew immediately that I had made the right decision when she invited me to the Grand Floridian to have dinner and see the life-size gingerbread house that they have there.
The gingerbread house was amazing. It was perfect. I once wrote a story about a Princess who accidentally ate her house- I like to think that her house might have looked like that. It even had smoke coming from the chimney.
But actually, it wasn't the highlight of my evening. The best thing about that evening was that I was with some of my favourite people from this programme. I cannot believe how lucky I am to have met the absolute superstars that I work with here- so this is me being ever-so-slightly cheesy and being so thankful for the wonderful people that I have been lucky enough to meet and spend time with this year.
(I also feel that I should mention that last month I explained that I, unfortunately, find the Japanese accent nothing short of hilarious and that my friend Fix-It Felix only encourages this. Fix-It Felix was with me on this particular night at the Grand Floridian and of all the servers, in all of Walt Disney World, we had a Japanese one. I am embarrassed by my own inability to stay poised during that dinner and I apologise.)
6. This time ten years ago I spent a lot of my time discussing the future holidays that I was going to take with my best friend and our boyfriends.
We used to spend our Geography classes planning exactly where we would go, what we would do, who would drive and what it would be like.
We didn't actually have boyfriends at the time, but this plan was for when we were really, really old like...eighteen or nineteen maybe.
I still have a really clear image of the trip we had planned.
I would be driving a silver fiesta, wearing a pink velour tracksuit with my gorgeous boyfriend beside me (James who I sat with in Science and who I had held hands with once at a disco in year seven and so was definitely going to end up marrying). My best friend would be in the back with her boyfriend (Ant who I also sat with in Science- she actually had his number so they were already semi-serious when we were fourteen), we would stop every now and then for food on the drive (I can only assume to France, I'm not sure we would have planned to drive anywhere else....). Actually that's as far as the dream got. I'm not sure I ever pictured the actual holiday.
Anyway, I am sorry to tell you that this is one dream that never came true. By the time we were nineteen I was in Coventry and my best friend was in Hertfordshire, both without boyfriends or money for holidays.
Then last week the vision almost came true.
Unfortunately my best friend now lives in Saint Albans with her lovely boyfriend (not Ant, if you were interested), and I'm on the other side of the water.
But I did find myself hopping in a car to go on holiday with one other girl and two lads. Sadly the car was not a silver fiesta but some big American car that the boys got really excited about. Thankfully I was not wearing a bright pink, velour tracksuit but just jeans, boots and a jumper. Luckily I was not driving, but in the back where I belong when it comes to foreign roads. The other girl was not my best friend from home but Lilo, a beautiful, mischievous, funny girl from work; the boys were not James and Ant but Dale and Scuttle- far older but far better looking and entertaining.
As we drove along the roads of Tennessee I couldn't help but think of that dream and the fact that it was almost coming true.
I could write a novel on how much I loved Tennessee. In fact, I could write a novel just on the funny things that Scuttle said while we were away. But I won't bore you with too many memories, just a couple of highlights....
1. The Itinerary.
Two days before we left, Dale sent the three of us a minute-by-minute itinerary for the trip, including '10.55: Enjoy a leisurely breakfast or a hearty lunch', and '23.00: Lights out! Get some rest for the excitement that awaits the following day.'
2. The Hotel.
Scuttle and Dale had convinced Lilo and I that Dale had accidentally booked the wrong hotel (The Smokey Creek Motel- would you be excited to stay there?) and there was only going to be one bed. Dale was actually quite convincing and, until Scuttle got involved, I had believed that we were going to have to make a bed out of blankets on the floor.
As we were driving along a road surrounded by restaurants, bars and hotels, discussing absolutely nothing to do with the hotel or finding the place, Dale suddenly pulled into a beautiful hotel saying 'We're so lost, we'll have to ask in here.'
Scuttle followed that up with 'Wow, I bet it's really expensive to stay in this place', in a kind of Hollyoaks-style of acting.
Lilo slid down in her seat, stifling giggles and mouthing 'do you think we're staying here?', whilst Scuttle proceeded to talk and talk and talk some more about how lost we were and how it could be hours until we found the hotel.
Dale came back to the car and said he had directions. He proceeded to continue to drive around the same hotel, still adamant that we were staying at the Smokey Creek Motel, and eventually pulled up outside a room and walked in, leaving Lilo and me in the car. Eventually they both appeared at a bedroom window grinning like Cheshire Cats.
The hotel was beautiful.
3. The Coffin.
On the first night we went to an amazing dinner show about two families at war. Outside they had silly props for funny photos for everyone to take. One of the props was a stand-up coffin. Lilo went first. She stood in it with her arms across her chest and her eyes closed- you know, like almost every human you know would do?
Dale gave me his phone and asked me to take a picture of him in it. Then, without any introduction, he turned to Scuttle and asked him to lift his feet while he climbed in upside down.
Dale is the only person I have ever met that would automatically do that.
Unfortunately he wasn't quite as graceful as he'd hoped, he ended up trapping his fingers underneath his head and crying out in pain while we took pictures and laughed.
Dollywood (Or Dollyland as my dad likes to call it) is Dolly Parton's theme park in the Smokey Mountains. It has amazing rides, shows, stores and food and left me feeling super Christmassy. One of the highlights for me was the first rollercoaster.
Maybe highlight isn't the right word.
I'm not a particularly big fan of rides but I had been assured that it wouldn't be that bad- Dolly would have to ride all the rides to check she was happy with them and she was 67 years old- how bad could it be?
Scuttle- theme park enthusiast and expert- came off shaking and saying it was the scariest ride he had ever been on.
I know, I'm a hero.
5. Free Stuff.
On the first day as we were driving from lunch to our hotel we drove past a chair lift and decided to park up and see how much it would cost to go on it. (Okay for the others to go on it, I never had any intention of putting myself through that). In the end it was too expensive so we decided to let that go and instead had a wander along the high street. Somehow we ended up in a courtyard full of wooden rocking chairs where a band were playing. The band had the most beautiful accents when they spoke, and there was free popcorn, hot chocolate and alcohol going. That might have been the best half an hour of my life.
I am so thankful that I get to spend the majority of my time with the best person I have ever met, and that I was lucky enough to go away with such hilarious company.
And so I'm back to my first thanksgiving....
I spent thanksgiving with some of the kindest, funniest, most thoughtful people I have been lucky enough to meet. We spent the evening laughing, eating and putting the world to rights, and I am so thankful to have this gorgeous home away from home.
We spent the rest of the night in the Black Friday sales rolling our eyes at people queuing for H&M four hours before it opened, squealing at the discounts (okay that was just me), and spending all of our hard earned money.
I am so thankful for Abercrombie and Fitch discounts.
Happy Thanksgiving :)