|Re: Child Research Net Newsletter November 12, 1999
|From: Merry White (11/26/1999 16:09:00)
And a very happy Thanksgiving. I want to echo some of what follows and add a little. I've lived with my children in both Japan and the United States and I find transported holidays a good way to teach children about commonalities in families as well as about diversity.
On Thanksgivings in Japan we'd go to Japanese friends' houses (where they had ovens anyway) and make a turkey. One year in the early 70s we could only find a turkey by special order from a missionary PX. Another year we had turkey at my daughter's school country retreat with several Japanese and American families who spent the weekend together in Gumma-ken.
The important thing was never the turkey, however shocking in its size and monumentality. It was people hanging out and spending time together across national, generational and gender boundaries. The men cooked, and didn't just "help out". There was no ball game on the tv, though at times I missed that.
In the U.S. too we keep it casual, we invent family, include what my father used to call "waifs and strays", in his case meaning his students from overseas who didn't have a turkey to go to. In his day, to be sure that there would be enough to go around, he sewed another six or seven drumsticks on to the main bird before roasting it; it ended up looking like a poultry version of a centipede. Today we blend three families, my children have come home (now perhaps it's more like "visiting home" as one is in her mid-thirties in a very intense and travel-prone career in finance, and the other is away at college), and there will be one Japanese student. Stuffing recipes are the multicultural topic of dispute. Should I do the one I've always done? My son is a vegetarian: but I refuse to do a tofu-turkey which, I hear is all the rage.
We each take on a dish, peel sweetpotatoes, make calls to the 800 number for Butterball Turkey to get advice on roasting time and method for a twentypound, boned and stuffed bird. We sit around and watch videos or just talk. It's a very bluejeans event. Some people go out in the gloomy rain for a run or long walk.
It's going to all be on the table by 6:30 tonight, another concession to changing family needs. My son wants to go to his father's turkey dinner first, the middle of the day. Families of divorce often have more than one turkey in the same day. He gets back here in time for another round of eating, and of course, our famous table full of desserts.
So, family is what you make it, and even a "traditional" holiday like Thanksgiving can be adapted, adjusted, be transformed by on-the-spot invented traditions, and children are right in there, peeling and inventing recipes and making placecards for the table, making family culture.
Happy Thanksgiving! Merry White