About the Author: Hadi K. Deeb serves as Vice Consul at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.
We sat under Christmas lights in the warmth of evening, the sun having just drifted beyond our ken. There was no wind, no sounds from outside the high walls, nothing to indicate our location, nothing to prevent us from imagining we were home. Only an hour earlier, we had drifted in, bringing our labors to table, not expecting compliments but only happy eyes that understood we were fortunate. We had stood awkwardly among our peers with no parents, no siblings, no uncles or aunts, and waited for the table. We had spoken about American football, past celebrations and past tables, favorite recipes, all of which reminded us that our celebration had been done for hundreds of years, but perhaps not that often this way. We had stood in our walled compound and prattled on; someone had gone to get his wife who was still resting; a baby stroller and baby had been placed at the table's corner, near the desserts. And all of us had gazed up at the strange modern structure, this compound, a wizardly set of coterminous prisms, some mirror images of each other, some identical in every way except for their residents, and had smiled as another familiar person emerged from behind a column and joined us, soon to be seated at the table.
The table. What plenitude! Cups had been filled with something pink -- cranberry daiquiris, a voice said. Wine at every elbow, far more food than any of us could ever need, plates of varying size so that those who wanted more didn't have to get up again. We sat under the twinkling lights, on folding chairs, before metal tables, all procured from the plain gray building that was the United States for us and for the thousands we served. We gave thanks for our privileges, which were innumerable, including the privilege of having a part of our homeland here with us in Mexico. We looked around and remembered the people we used to sit across from in childhood, adolescence, and when we returned home for just a day or two. There is, I thought to myself, nothing more important than family. Family is home, and home is the place in your soul where you know you are safe from all evil, all chaos, all fickle desires of man.
I could not tell, I do not know, what secret gratitude each person might have concealed behind his merriment, his mouth full and busy. But I did know that each person had decided it was more important to celebrate together than apart. Seventeen of us who could easily have been lost in a city of twenty million; seventeen lives upon whom destiny had smiled. What we had assembled this warm night was a small group of colleagues and compatriots who realized that it was important to celebrate this time -- even if, every so often, we would feel that we could be elsewhere. We had been taught, on this day, to thank each other and whatever forces we believed governed our fate.
As night fell, colder and black, we knew the day was over for a year, and none of us wished to leave. And as we cleaned and moved and threw away the traces of our feast, the last time we would all be here together giving thanks, we heard a voice from across the way and beyond the walls. It was a Spanish voice greeting an event to which it was likely indifferent. There was no envy for not being invited to join our celebration, no masked resentment, nothing more than a natural human action committed for its own sake with no reward. After all, we were just Americans in Mexico giving thanks for the chain of fortuitous events that had brought us here. And giving thanks means that the reward is already ours.