So, What Are We Celebrating This Thanksgiving?

For many years after my ex-husband Ed and I decided to go our separate ways, his brother Mort would pack his Volkswagen bus with his three children, his ukulele and harmonica, and various Chilean relatives whom he brought here after the fall of the Allende government in Chile. It’s heartfelt to note that back in the 70s, a call from my congressman was sufficient to release these political refugees from Kennedy Airport and allow them entry into the United States to my home. That Thanksgiving, we scurried to make our foreign guests welcome.

Over the years, Uncle Mort would head for my house several days before Thanksgiving, and it was tradition that we all spoke about those things for which we were grateful. It’s interesting to note that three of our Chilean relatives became nurses in the United States and tended with care to Covid patients. And we can be thankful for that.

The upshot of those annual visits was a closeness between our families. Long-lasting memories and loving relationships between the cousins who might have been strangers to one another, had we not perpetuated our annual Thanksgiving celebrations.

So what are we celebrating this Thanksgiving? Sadly, Uncle Morty passed away this year, at 90, and he won’t be riding that Volkswagen bus from Schenectady to the Hudson Valley. Truth be told, Uncle Morty’s generosity made him a role model to my son Jonathan, who as a result speaks fluent Spanish.

That aside, I think all Americans are rethinking what it means to celebrate Thanksgiving. Many of us are questioning what it means to celebrate such a festive occasion of goodwill between people of different backgrounds.

The story of Thanksgiving has been altered for many of us, who now have a better understanding of history and what really happened back in those days long gone. So what are we celebrating? I think we can cherish the fact that Thanksgiving is a time when families get together and, despite their differences and opinions, we can celebrate our union with one another and our belief in our democratic system. While it is not lost on me, the pilgrims and the Indians, were not one happy family.

I, for one, will continue to celebrate the notion that despite our differences, it is a beautiful thing that families can get together, yell and scream at each other, derate each other for old gripes and family injustices, and yet give hugs and kiss and talk about good and bad times, and understand the basic truth of what binds us together. It is called freedom.

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