An American Thanksgiving

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I was almost two years old when my family immigrated from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to New York.

My mom and dad came to America and worked in the city doing odd jobs at first and then as maids, janitors, and engineers.

When we first came here we shared a small two-bedroom apartment with my grandma, aunt, and uncle. We slept on floors and couches and eventually saved enough money to move to a semi-attached townhouse in the suburbs of Staten Island. From then on we would live like the Classic American Family.


It’s weird to think about it now, but I grew up thinking that I was a full blooded American girl; our family was so immersed in American traditions I never questioned why we celebrated every holiday in full Martha Stewart style.

I’m talking something like a cross between Food Network and The Brady Bunch. Thanksgiving, especially, was the time of year when I felt most at home in my home. My parents didn’t cook on Thanksgiving—American food wasn’t their thing, so my siblings and I would prep months in advance for it. We would make a list of the menu and research for the best turkey recipes because everyone knows turkey is the worst part of the whole day. Magazine that push out articles on “10 Ways to Trick Out Thanksgiving Casserole” were made for us.

I appreciate the holiday even more now being a broke college kid who only goes to school events to steal food and then leave. I look forward to going home for Thanksgiving because the food is amazing and, honestly, I fucking miss my family and the city. No one lives in Vermont except for people who smoke weed and talk about fair trade. I crave the hostility of New Yorkers and the passive-aggression of my family when I talk about being a film major.

Women boxing on a roof, 1938 (2).jpg

I know the origins of this fake-ass holiday are rooted in lies and the mistreatment of Native Americans, but for 12 hours I get to eat good food and love my family.  We don’t talk about the pilgrims, we don’t even go around saying what we’re thankful for. Hugs are exchanged and my parents tell me they missed me, but that’s the extent of the explicit love and sentimental shit.

I don’t go home for Thanksgiving so I can discuss the nation’s history and talk about love and peace, I’m there because there’s a ham on the table that’s getting cold and oh my god we have been cooking all day. Can we please eat now?

This is what Thanksgiving looks like, in my home and in the homes of millions other Americans. It’s just a group of people who love, comfort, and cook for each other and after everything that has fucked us up as a nation this past month a lot of us need that. I know I do.


Credit (first photo): Celebrating Thanksgiving in the 1950’s
Credit (second photo): Women boxing on a roof, 1938

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