Perhaps appropriately, the start of Thanksgiving week was marked by the next stage in our emigration process. Early on Tuesday morning Mike drove Mattie and me to a nondescript building in the north of San Antonio to have our fingerprints and yet more photos taken (our fifth set of photos so far, I think, since Mike initiated the process two years ago.) So, all being well, at some point in the next few months I hope to receive my ‘green card’. Even then it may still be a year or so before our emigration process is officially over, but at least I will be able to work, if I wish, and Mattie and I will be allowed to leave the US – currently we would not be allowed re-entry if we did so.
The next day Mike, Mattie and I set off excitedly to spend a few days in Galveston on the south Texas coast, about 50 miles south of Houston. Galveston is actually an island, and like so many seaside towns it sports that mixture of history, decaying elegance and gaudiness. ‘It feels as though there are a lot of ghosts here,’ I remarked to Mike, and indeed a hurricane decimated much of the town in 1900, killing several thousand of the islanders. Without means of burial, the bodies were dumped in the sea – only to litter the beach the next day when the tide carried them back in. Fearing an outbreak of disease due to the sultry weather, survivors were forced to burn the bodies in funeral pyres where they lay.
Before the hurricane Galveston had been the main port of Texas – and the most important shipping and financial centre west of Wall Street. This was mainly due to the cotton trade, most of which was exported to the mills of northern England. A contributing factor was that Galveston was the principal port of entry for hundreds of thousands of immigrants arriving from all over the world. Luckily, the town still sports a large number of beautiful Victorian gothic-style buildings once constructed for banks, merchants and as private residences, though many of these have been turned into museums, restaurants and curio shops over the years. I would have loved to step back in time to experience the town as the bustling major commercial centre it once was – complete with opera house, ballrooms, pleasure piers and coffee and peanut butter processing plants.
We ate our Thanksgiving meal in a charming century-old restaurant called Gaido’s on the seafront. The grilled shrimp dusted in light cornmeal, the ‘blackened’ scallops and the pecan pie for dessert were exceptionally good. Mattie, having a penchant for turkey and ham, instead chose the buffet, occasionally dropping on Mike’s and my plate a fried oyster. During the meal Mike looked at us at and said with a smile, ‘Well, it’s our first Thanksgiving together.’ It did indeed seem like we had passed another milestone in our story. Perhaps my sweetest memory is when earlier that same day Mattie had come up to me and said ‘I’m thankful for you, Mum’.

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