Dear Beverly

Even though you're coming at a hectic period, I truly am looking forward to your visit next month. However, it's a shame you didn't stay with us during American Thanksgiving because we would have spent a lot of time with you and George. On the other hand, you would not have met any Americans. They start disappearing around the beginning of Thanksgiving week and by Thursday there's nobody on the streets except foreigners.

We saw Baron Spitte staring moodily at the window display in People's Drug Store on Dupont Circle, and a couple of worried Dutch tourists we met on Connecticut Avenue asked us if there had been some kind of emergency evacuation from the city. We allayed their fears about onslaughts from floods, volcanoes and terrorists and told them they were experiencing American Thanksgiving, a prolonged patriotic holiday during which the natives reportedly return to their homesteads to eat turkey, so it's difficult for tourists to get a glimpse of them.

Even Canadians, notwithstanding our own holiday, which is earlier and shorter, find the American Thanksgiving a puzzle. Duncan Macdonald, a Canadian journalist, gave a party during the Great Disappearance and was distraught.

"You look at the people here, only Canucks. I asked 20 real Americans and they all refused, even Mrs. Polotsky."

"Who's Mrs. Polotsky?" I asked.

"A neighbor who's retired from the Bureau of Weights and Measures. She often asks me to come upstairs to join her for a bourbon on the rocks and watch some daytime television. Where do you suppose she goes to?"

"Possibly a video store first," I answered. I was in one just before the evacuation, and it was thronged with Americans taking out dozens of movies. By the time I got there nothing was left except "Jack in the Beanstalk" and "Women in Bondage."

"Do you think Mrs. Polotsky is upstairs right now watching 'Beverly Hills Cop'?" Duncan wondered. "Better that on a patriotic holiday," I said, "than being seen with Snowbirds on Thanksgiving."

Anyway, Beverly, "wife of" decided to do a little research to find out where Americans really go during Thanksgiving, so I rang Joe Promisall after the holiday was over.

"I stayed in Washington, in my homestead in Kalorama. Thanksgiving is the only time I get a chance to see all the football I want. I have a dish on the roof and a 9-foot television screen in the basement. My wife has learned to serve the turkey dinner during one of the halftimes."

I was pretty sure "wife of" Thistle Jr. from State wasn't watching football on Thanksgiving, so I called to ask her about her holiday.

"Thanksgiving!" she exclaimed. "You mean the Crisis Before Christmas. Only three weeks away and I haven't even bought, let alone mailed, the gifts to our family in Buffalo. I have to be near a large shopping center on Thanksgiving. No Virginia homestead for me. When else is there time to buy wreaths, ornaments, wrapping paper and presents and dried figs for the fruitcake? If you had come to Tysons Corner on Friday you would have seen me and thousands of Americans shopping for Christmas. That's what Thanksgiving is for."

Sonny Goldstone was my next call. I imagined he would have been invited to some glamorous house in the Hamptons, where he'd dine on free-range turkey, hand- stuffed with homemade cornbread and jalape?no chiles, cooked by his girlfriend Meredith. He makes her read Gourmet magazine.

"I couldn't go to the Hamptons this Thanksgiving," Sonny said sadly, "although I was invited. Some friends brought in this fantastic Chinese chef who made a Dim Sum and Peking Duck Thanksgiving. But my mother in Baltimore made such a fuss, I had to go there instead. I took her to the Aquarium, and we ate clams at a raw bar. It wasn't worth getting a turkey just for the two of us. In the evening we watched 'Miracle on 34th Street' on TV. She doesn't have a video."

I knew Popsie Tribble had gone out of town for Thanksgiving but I wasn't sure where.

"To our homestead in Virginia, of course," she said. "It's been in Dexter's family for years. We had a traditional family Thanksgiving, with turkey and sweet potato pie."

Popsie doesn't talk much about her family, Beverly, so I was curious. "What family did you have?" I asked.

"Well, there was my stepfather -- mother's gone -- and Dexter's divorced daughter from his first marriage and the baby. Dexter's mother came in from Palm Beach with a gentleman friend who's Greek but is around her age, thank heavens -- maybe a few years younger. My son from my first marriage arrived from California with his second wife, and my daughter -- who is also Dexter's daughter -- brought her husband. Things seem to be okay there. Dexter's daughter, the divorced one, had to spend part of Thanksgiving dinner with her mother, who's remarried, so she left the baby with us and drove out to her mother's homestead to eat pumpkin pie. Everybody was happy. My son's second wife offered to take care of Dexter's grandchild."

Beverly, I didn't ask Popsie who cooked the turkey.

Your best friend,