Thanksgiving: A Holiday With Many Meanings
Thanksgiving. To many, this means giving thanks for all our blessings. To others, it means mourning the decimation of Native Americans. To farmers, it meant being grateful for a bountiful harvest, because now they won’t starve during winter.
Thanksgiving to me is being thankful to my ancestors. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the bravery and courage of those people. My children wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.
My ancestress Ann Jewell Rowley was born and raised in England, but she converted to Mormonism in the late 1800’s. She believed in her faith so strongly that she uprooted her 11 children and left everything behind except for a few personal items that could fit in a handcart. They traveled from England to New York, where they then walked from New York to Utah with only that handcart, joining up with the rest of the Mormons that Brigham Young established.
Sybil Ludington was sixteen years old when she rode across Dutchess County, Connecticut, gathering her father, Colonel Henry Ludington’s, men. The British were gathering forces to invade Danbury, the town near them. Ludington was planning a counter-attack. Sybil rode all night, over 40 miles through the woods and pouring rain. Many people haven’t heard of her, but they have all heard of Paul Revere and his midnight ride.
My great-grandmother Gertrude Gulbrundsen was born in Norway. Her family dreamt of having a better life for themselves and their children. They packed up, and with what little money they had, her family left Norway and came to America to begin anew.
Another great-grandmother was born in Bohemia but came to the United States to have a better life as well. I mention the women because it’s not surprising that men leave their homes and travel. It is very unusual for the women to do so.
Think about it. Women didn’t have the right to vote. They didn’t have the right to own property. These women left the safety of their homes and entered into a world where women needed men to survive. Yet, it didn’t stop them.
These women were my inspiration. When things got tough, I remembered them, thought about the hardships they had to have endured to make their dreams come true. My life difficulties paled in comparison to what they had to deal with.
Prejudice in the military? Ann Rowley walked across the United States with eleven children with only a handcart.
Bad marriage? Sybil Ludington was only sixteen and rode all night in the pouring rain during the revolutionary war.
I wouldn’t be here if these women hadn’t had the courage to follow their dreams. How could I not do the same?
I took their strength and made it mine, and I tried to be a woman they would be proud of, the woman my sons would be proud of.
I have two fabulous sons who married two strong, beautiful women from different cultures. We are truly an international family, sharing cultures, languages, and food.
My sons’ father is Native American—an Oneida, a member of the Iroquois Confederacy. They fought on the American side of the Revolutionary war, and what was the reward for their help? They were pushed off onto a reservation in Canada.
My eldest son married a girl from Laos, who was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. The communists overthrew Laos’ government, and her family became fugitives in their own country. They arrived in the United States with only their lives, but created a new home and a family and created the strong beautiful woman that is my new daughter.
My youngest son married a beautiful woman from Peru. Her family runs a successful import/export business. They met on an online dating service. He has a daughter from a previous relationship, and she has a son from hers. So, I have a new grandson.
This is my family. This is what I’m grateful for. This is what Thanksgiving means to me: family, culture, history, giving thanks for the many blessings I have, two wonderful sons, and my two beautiful daughters they married, my six grandbabies, my sister and her husband, the exciting multi-cultural family I inherited through my family, and the insurmountable odds we’ve all taken to become the people we are today. I am truly blessed!
What does Thanksgiving mean to you?
May the goddess and god bring many blessings to you and yours this holiday season.