November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving, 2008!

My mother’s first impression of America was the abundance that it offered. She’d just left Jamaica in 1977—a time of shortages and privation—and came to live with her sister in Hollywood, Florida. As soon as she landed, my aunt took her to a local supermarket and as my mother walked through the doors, she was confronted literally by a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables. Tears ran down my mother’s face. It was a scene she would never forget and she repeated this story so many times that it became a part of our family’s story: America’s promise of opportunity and abundance.

And yet, America is so full of contradictions! For even as our extended family sits down to eat our Thanksgiving dinner, there are many in our neighborhood who are now facing foreclosure and with barely anything to be cheerful about this year. These are hard times and its difficult to reconcile my mother’s story with some of the things I’ve seen and experienced. Over the years, it has also been difficult to celebrate this holiday because I came to America as an adult and I did not grow up with the mythology surrounding Thanksgiving.

But I’ve learned and I have my children to thank for this. There is a saying, “There are no atheists in foxholes,” or as David Foster Wallace once said, “There is no such thing as not worshipping.” My version would be, “Parenting makes you a believer.” It takes a lot of faith to be a parent—trusting that despite everything and as long as they don’t do something crazy that everything will be all right. It’s the crazy part that keeps me up at night.

Over the years, however, my children have taught me how to celebrate this season of giving thanks and though I was slow to get into it (like the other celebrations such as Halloween—pirate, indeed!), they have taught me that this holiday is about family—sharing a meal, breaking bread with those whom we love and cherish and who in return love and cherish us. Come what may. Come what may.

Enjoy yourselves and each other.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all & see you next week. I’m on holiday.



Anonymous said...

Happy turkey day G! I hear you about the whole forclosures thing. Did you know 1 in 8 Americans is starving?

Geoffrey Philp said...

Give thanks, Leon.
"Did you know 1 in 8 Americans is starving?"-- I knew it was bad, but I didn't know it was that bad...
There but for the grace of God...

FSJL said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Geoffrey.

Yup. It is that bad. And this year it is worse, as food pantries are coming up short.

(BTW, as a parent and an atheist, I'd say you were wrong about some things.)

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