“And that is what I am thankful for. I am thankful for my lack of Thanksgivings, because what seemed to be lacking was what filled me with perspective and pure nonjudgmental acceptance of people and customs, the social and emotional intelligence to succeed in modern society and all my travels.”
Thankfulness. Here I am curled up on a couch in Harlem, New York City sipping French Press from an Edna Mode Cup, as I listen to the clanging of my friend Micaela’s blender fixing to create some sort of millennial rum cake magic. She is slaving away in the kitchen for her family of transplants in this city. Today is Thanksgiving. Now, I have a lot to say about this holiday on colonialism, western imperialism, Christopher Columbus, etc. but I’ll save it. Instead, I’ll focus on the commercial positive aspect that Americans have reinforced on this day: gratefulness and togetherness.
Thanksgiving is traditionally spent with family, sharing a meal and giving thanks. My family was poor growing up. My mom and dad usually had to work on Thanksgiving. They were Laotian refugees who felt that this was a holiday only shared by “American” families. Because of this, my brothers and I spent a lot of Thanksgivings alone. Although, we understood the necessity of our parents having to work, it did not save us from feeling the resentment of cultural dichotomy, and being left out of this cultural phenomenon. I would always feel sadness, and wonder why my family couldn’t be a “normal” American family like everyone else’s? I hated that my family looked nothing like Macaulay Culkin’s family in Home Alone.
But I grew up. And as I grew, my family and I learned that American families come in all shape and sizes. I realized as a first-generation immigrant, the firstborn to my parents, I was a bridge from their world to mine (I wish I could share the beauty and weight it is to hold such an important role). That they too were learning to be a family, to their family, without the help of their families in a foreign country. I accepted that Thanksgiving was not their holiday, and it holds no weight in their life, and that is ok. And that is what I am thankful for. I am thankful for my lack of Thanksgivings, because what seemed to be lacking was what filled me with a social and emotional intelligence to succeed in modern society and all my travel. They taught me perspective and pure nonjudgmental acceptance of people and customs. In our lack of home as refugees, they taught me to cultivate a heart so loving that everyone felt like home when they stepped into our sphere, and as cheesy as it sounds that it would always feel like some sort of Thanksgiving holiday.
This lesson is validated today in my Transplant Thanksgiving in NYC. I’ve been invited by several transplant communities to share Thanksgiving meals with them. I truly admire these beautiful people who have decided to move to this nitty gritty city to follow their dreams alone and unafraid, and are choosing to foster their own versions of families and create new customs as they work to build a life. I see reflections of my parents in them, and it moves me to see that basic humanity is universal. I hope you have a day full of gratefulness as you’re alive and mentally intact enough to have read this to the end. Thanks for reading. 😊