I was cutting up onions, and I was crying, but it wasn’t the onions that caused the tears. It was geography. On a tiny island 10,000 miles from home, I was preparing for Thanksgiving festivities for which I felt neither thankful nor festive.

We had just moved from an assignment near my hometown to Guam, where Thanksgiving coincides — as some of you know — not with falling leaves and crisp weather, but typhoon season.

A typhoon moved across the island on Monday of that holiday week, leaving base housing with only sporadic electricity. We had power for a while on Tuesday, but then it suddenly went off again.

Weeks before, my husband and I had invited about 20 other transplanted islanders for a Thanksgiving feast. Now, all I had was a bunch of diced celery and onions, and a very large, very raw turkey.

So on Tuesday afternoon, I stood in my kitchen and cried over the onions. I thought I could feel at home with my husband and children anywhere the Air Force sent us; but how could we enjoy Thanksgiving with 80-degree temperatures, 100 percent humidity, no air conditioning and no food?

“I have learned whatsoever state I am in, therewith to be content,” chirped the Sunday school teacher in my head, quoting the King James. She was no help.

“Guam isn’t a state anyway — it’s a territory,” I grumbled.

Interrupting this schizophrenic pity party was a vision — possibly from God, who was tired of my whining. It was a vision of the chapel: a building with emergency power and a kitchen with two big, beautiful ovens.

I called the chapel. The whole neighborhood must have had the same vision, because a turkey-cooking schedule was under way and filling up fast. I was able to get our bird a two-hour tanning appointment on Wednesday afternoon, which meant it had to be refrigerated until the next day. Our tiny generator could boost the fridge during outages, but not the oven.

We had electricity for only a couple of hours at a time Tuesday and Wednesday, so each day I cooked as much of the rest of the feast as I could and prayed we would have electricity on Thursday.

Thanksgiving Day our house was full, and our prayers were answered. The power was scheduled to be on until 4 p.m. — what luxury!

Our overseas extended family dined on pumpkin pies baked Tuesday night, dressing prepared on Wednesday, side dishes contributed by everyone who came — and the turkey.

Turned out the turkey’s oven appointment should have been a little longer. When we sliced it, we discovered the dark meat was still a bit too pink.

On most holidays, carving into a partially raw turkey with a houseful of guests waiting to be served would qualify as a disaster. That year, it was scarcely a bump in the road.

After spending the night in the fridge, the turkey had to be sliced and then microwaved anyway. We just waved it longer. Don’t tell Martha Stewart — or my mother. The meat was a little tough, yes, but I was simply thankful that it was thoroughly cooked.

Thankful — I was thankful to have electricity; thankful the typhoon damage was minimal; thankful to have our friends around us; thankful to have a turkey that was no longer raw.

I was a long way from home, but I realized I was also a long way from true hardship. The very circumstances that seemed to make thankfulness impossible caused me, in the end, to give thanks even more for the simple blessings of Thanksgiving.

Terri Barnes is a military wife and mom of three. She lives and writes in Germany. Send comments or questions to her at

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