It’s no secret that Thanksgiving is an extremely bizarre holiday. It is fundamentally based on colonialism and the idea that we should celebrate a day that represents the genocide of indigenous peoples, and ultimately the undeserved accomplishments of white people. It’s so strange to me that a majority of people (including myself) haven’t realized that until fairly recently, but I guess sometimes it takes us a while to really “wake up.”
When celebrating this holiday as a child, all I really cared about was the food- which I think is pretty standard. However, since celebrating this day as an adult, so much has changed. Three years ago, I celebrated the day with my family by inviting two Dutch exchange student friends to cook with us who had never experienced a traditional Thanksgiving. The next year a dear friend who’s a vegan joined my family and introduced us to some great new dishes (and ended up doing most of the cooking). Last year, at the height of my mother’s illness, my sister and I worked tirelessly to cook an entire meal while my mom had to painfully watch on the sidelines. One of her greatest joys is cooking meals like this on the holidays and her not being able to participate was such a hard thing to see. I remember my sister and I burning the first round of bread crumbs for the stuffing and the gravity of such a simple mistake felt much greater because my mom wasn’t able to help.
This year will be completely different, we are celebrating Thanksgiving at my Aunt’s house, and although my mom won’t be able to cook everything, tomorrow she and my sister and I will be able to make a few staple dishes before heading over. It’s funny how you don’t appreciate things like stressing out together over making a holiday meal until you aren’t able to do it.
I remember doing a project in junior high where the assignment was to talk about family traditions and I was so frustrated because a lot of my friend’s were Latino and had all these incredible traditions that were so rich and colorful, and I somehow wasn’t able to pinpoint my own family’s traditions. Now I see them so clearly. In the way my mom meticulously plans her recipes like an astronaut preparing for launch; in the fact that we still make a sweet potato recipe from my Dad’s mom who has been gone for years now; in the way that we have added the Dutch Boterkoek cake as one of our essential desserts; in the way we are always perpetually late; and most importantly, in the way that I couldn’t imagine spending this holiday without the people who I am most grateful for.
My gratitude was shown to me in a new light after listening to a podcast that featured two women, one who received a kidney from the other after knowing each other for a very short time. Listening to their story, and identifying with so many of the things they were talking about put my own life into perspective. Words they used and scenarios they described brought me back to moments I have tucked away in the corners of my mind. It’s been really tough for me to take a step back from everything my family and I went through with my mom’s lung transplant surgery, but somehow hearing a similar story made me better understand our own. When I was finishing up my walk this evening, I ran into my sister and mom who were also finishing up a walk (it still feels unreal to see my mom being able to trek up our hill sans oxygen tank). I told them about the podcast I had just listened to and I realized how remarkable our story truly is. My mom then shared a really intense piece of information about her donor she had been holding inside for the past four months and it made me cry. I cried because it made me realize how truly deserving my mom was to receive these new lungs. These last 4 months since her surgery, I have just been learning how to be okay and relearning to live my life, but for now I am grateful. The universe works in mysterious and beautiful ways and the fact that I’m going to get to have my family together for another year is a truly a wonderful thing.