21 Nov Thanksgiving Brings Us Together
Growing up, I looked at my friends in school with admiration. Thanksgiving, for them, was a time with family and loved ones. The excitement of the holiday season was near and everyone traveled to a family member’s home or hosted a large meal for the people they cared for most in their lives. My story was a little different. My parents came from Brazil, where Thanksgiving doesn’t exist. My parents still tried to make the season special and I got to spend the holidays with what we considered our “American Family.” This included the people who sponsored my parents when they first came to this country. But I was always left with a reminder that, on one of my favorite holidays, my blood-relatives remained thousands of miles away.
I grew up traveling to Brazil at least once a year, something I grew accustomed to at a very young age. I wasn’t deprived of time with my family when we had the means to travel to Brazil; however, the time in-between was very difficult. Speaking to them on the phone then was a luxury. I remember my mom sending handwritten letters to her parents and sisters stating she’d be calling a particular house on a specific date and time, causing everyone to gather in that home awaiting our call. Technological advancements since then have made it easier to communicate: we simply Facetime or chat on What’s App. In that way, we get to regularly check-in and watch, from a distance, how our lives are going. Yet, there’s something so special about reuniting in person during the holidays, a privilege I wish I had more frequently in my life.
Thirty-seven years later, I almost feel split in two: my Brazilian side and my American one. They rarely mix and I’m used to the small family I have here in the United States. But, when Thanksgiving approaches, like it did when I was a child, my desire to be with my family in Brazil resurfaces. Luckily, I’ve been fortunate to marry into a family that truly enjoys spending time with one another. And as we each get older and add children to the family tree, the more I feel we put the effort into being together, not simply around the holidays. We meet up for dance recitals, soccer games, and school events without batting an eye. This is our norm and I appreciate it as an only child, who longed for my family to be close. All the daydreaming I did as a child about seeing family on weekends and on a regular basis all seem to be coming true in my adult life. Although it doesn’t change my love for my Brazilian family, it truly touches me how much family is able to play a role in my day-to-day life.
My children gain the most from our family events. I still remember soaking up those moments as a child, on trips to Brazil, when I got to hang out with my cousins, eat my grandmother’s incredible food, and simply take in all my family had to offer. My children are extremely fortunate that they have their grandparents within driving distance. I get to watch my kids interact with our family members, this time, both in Brazil and in the United States. Unfortunately, the trips to Brazil are not as frequent as they were when I was a child. It’s an incredible sight to see; they are quite lucky and I don’t think they realize it yet. My children constantly ask when they’ll get to see certain people in the family. In those moments my heart feels full. When we travel to South America, my children get to see what I enjoyed growing up as a Brazilian-American. At the same time, they’re never lacking family here in the United States. I feel so fortunate that my children get constant interaction with family, something I had to travel thousands of miles away to achieve.
Thanksgiving, to me, is about family coming together. It’s about showing newer generations how big of a role family plays in their life and their future. I love sitting together at the table, talking, and simply being together. Each member of our extended family brings a new dynamic and unique relationship into my children’s lives. Even though I never lived in Brazil for longer than 3 months, I will always have part of my heart back with my family there. They shaped me into the adult I am today. I am so honored that I get to build a new foundation for my children with both my Brazilian family and my in-laws, because it shows my children how unique our family truly is.
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