A hopeful Facebook post turned into something more for Marit Reichardt and her family, as they spent their first Thanksgiving in America at a stranger’s house.
In 2008, Marit Reichardt’s husband, Patrick Reichardt, applied for integrated work to go to the United States. As an active member in the German Army, he and his family nearly forgot about the application until they heard back in 2020. By May 2021, they packed and sold their house in Northern Germany (near Hamburg) and moved to Texas.
After a year in Texas, they moved to New York and ended up in Montgomery mostly because of Montgomery Montessori School.
“We’re big fans of Montessori. I’m an educator for toddlers as well, so I had been self-employed in Germany and I wanted Montessori for my kids,” Marit said.
Once they found the school, they quickly discovered a house for sale that worked for them.
“Now we have deer in our yard and the kids are always excited seeing all the squirrels and chipmunks. It’s great. We feel very [at] home here because it’s similar to our German area. It’s the same climate and [has] the [same] green,” said Reichardt.
Although they’re happy in Montgomery, the holidays started to approach and the Reichardt’s didn’t know how to have a proper Thanksgiving. Because of this, Reichardt decided to use some local groups on Facebook like “Town of Montgomery NY-Message Board-Walden, Montgomery, Maybrook, Coldenham” as a resource. She posted: “We are a German family of four (38, 34, 5 and 2) that moved to Montgomery this summer. We have absolutely no idea about the turkey tradition, but would love to be a part of it.”
The post received multiple responses, but the Reichardt family went with the very first comment, who happened to be Village of Montgomery resident Debra Williams-Rugaber and her family.
“My wife and I were a military family and we used to always do a Friendsgiving for the longest time because we were very rarely home for Thanksgiving. We wanted to reach out to someone that also never experienced Thanksgiving and continue the tradition that we’ve always done; having a Friendsgiving like we used to have when we were stationed in Hawaii,” said Williams-Rugaber.
The Friendsgiving William-Rugaber would take part in would feed many soldiers.“We had upwards of 20 soldiers in our house and it was just an open door policy. Whoever needed a meal [could] come on over and have a good time,” Williams-Rugabeer added.
This is why it was a no-brainer for Williams-Rugaber and her wife, Lacy Rugaber-Williams, who also have four-year old twin boys to take a new family in. It helps that the Reichardts also have two young boys, Valentin and Farin who they brought along for the holiday. Valentin just turned five and Farin is almost three, and both families mention that the children got along great especially because of their age similarities.
“They got along very well,” said Reichardt. Williams-Rugaber added, “The kids played so great.”
The adults also enjoyed themselves, with Reichardt mentioning it was warm and inviting from the start.
“We came in and it was friendly from the very beginning. I asked them if they are huggers because especially after COVID, not everybody is, right? They said yeah, so that was like the icebreaker,” said Reichardt.
They also had German Glühwein, a classic German heated wine. “They didn’t do it just for us, they told us that they always do it around this time,” Reichardt mentioned.
Coincidentally, Williams-Rugaber has experience in Germany.
“I was in Germany for like six months before, [so] I’m very familiar with the German culture or pretty familiar at least. It was awesome being able to share stories, see where they’re from, and just compare [Germany] and the United States,” said Williams-Rugaber.
Reichardt also noted that her entire family really enjoyed the food, turkey included. “I really admire that the turkey thing is an actual thing.” In Germany, Reichardt mentions that they don’t have a tradition where one specific item of food is consumed.
The two families also found solidarity in their military backgrounds, with Patrick Reichardt currently being a Department of Military Instructor (DMI) at West Point and Williams-Rugaber using her veteran benefits to finish her MBA at Mercy College.
Although inviting strangers to your home is a risky idea to some, this invitation ended up being a great one for local Montgomery residents. Reichardt and Williams-Rugaber both mentioned some upcoming Christmas plans.
“We already got an invitation for Christmas with them,” Reichardt said, “and we accepted.”