US Thanksgiving and Family History – by Carley Nadeau. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
First came Joseph Nadeau, then Napoleon, Fredrick, Clayton, Craig and lastly me, Carley. Joseph was the first of our family to be born on American soil, after both of his parents immigrated from France. But even as American blood became forged in our veins, our family has never truly forgotten about our French heritage. This includes a very important aspect of the French culture: the strength of family. This love for family could especially be seen during Thanksgiving.
I have many memories from my childhood that involved Thanksgiving. There was so much excitement for my sister and I as we hurried into the car to go to Grandpa Clayton’s house. We would walk into the kitchen to see Grandma Delores putting finishing touches on the meal she had been cooking all day. Every family would cook also, and would bring a food dish to help take the load off of grandma. When it came to eating the meal, our family would try to stuff themselves around a singular dining table. Closeness and conversation was very important to grandpa, and I can remember from many Thanksgivings he would say, “Scoot in, we can fit in one more.” All of these things that would happen were always just normal to me, but I never realized that they had a big connection to the French culture. In France, meals can sometimes take all day to cook and every family is expected to bring a gift if invited to a dinner. The biggest part of a French meal gathering is the conversation. We would all sit around the table for hours talking; we would all catch up on each other’s lives. These reasons make me feel more connected to my French heritage and my family, which is something I need currently.
In 2012, my grandfather passed away. The excitement I had when thinking of going to his house was now filled with a sadness, a void. I had to come to terms with never getting the daily phone call at dinner again, never catching up on each other’s day and especially never having him at another family gathering. I’ve had to do a lot of searching and thinking to get over the grief of losing him. His wife, my grandma, just passed this summer too, and losing her was also hard. This meant the family would never have Thanksgiving with the grandparents anymore. There would be no more of grandma’s entrees, like deviled eggs and cinnamon rolls. The thought of this also hurt me too. But I came to the epiphany that just because they were physically gone, did not mean they were truly gone. They had taught me a lot, especially about family. As I am transitioning into college my freshman year, I try to stay close to my family by talking to them as much as I can. I want to feel that closeness and have those quality conversations still, and that responsibility now falls on my shoulders from the strong French that have come before me. Now the next step for me is to see how this Thanksgiving will go, but I hope it will have some of the French qualities that are so familiar to my childhood.
Even though the deviled eggs and the dessert after the Thanksgiving meal will never be the same, I will remember the true importance of Thanksgiving this year. It’s not about the food or the time from work and school (which I will admit is nice, anyway). It is about being with family, and remembering the ones that have left. Thanksgiving is a day to be appreciative of what you’ve learned from family, which would be the family unity for me. The love of family started with Joseph, and it will not stop with me.
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Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.
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