I recently visited my best friend from high school. 2008 marks the year many of us gal-pals are turning 30. She was the first of the bunch. Her husband threw her a party, and a lot of her family were there. They all seemed surprised that I had made the trip from Virginia to Florida to celebrate her big “three-oh”. I’m not sure why. I don’t come every year for her birthday, but this was a special occasion.
I didn’t know my paternal grandfather very well, but I know he had many less-than-stellar qualities, and that’s putting it lightly. He was abusive towards his family – physically towards his wife, emotionally towards his children. (He had three – two daughters and a son.) Besides that, he was your typical chauvinist. And I’m not just saying that as a matter of opinion; his very life and death reflected it. When my brother was born, he was the baby with two older sisters, just like our father was. My mother called her father-in-law with the news that his namesake had a namesake, and that his precious last name would securely go on. A month later, my grandfather had died. Coincidence? I don’t believe it.
My husband and I have a couple Thanksgiving traditions. Not a lot, but a few. Thanksgiving is new for both of us. Coming from immigrant families, neither of us celebrated Thanksgiving growing up. When we got together, we started hosting turkey day at our place, and our family members – whoever was in the area at the time – would attend. Usually it’s just my parents and siblings, his sister and her daughter. One year his father was also there. Another year my grandmother and aunt were there since they were visiting from Poland. My husband prepared a lovely pre-dinner speech, which I translated as he spoke, and he finished by reciting my favorite prayer – the Hail Mary – in Polish!
I am a very, very happily married woman. I’ve been with my husband for 9 years, married over 4. And as we prepare to start our family, the thought of becoming a mother has made me very aware of my relationship with … my own mother.
Although we arrived in the United States together, my mother was a grown woman: married, educated, having had work experience; I was an 8 year old girl. I became socialized into the new culture much more quickly and easily than was my mom. 20 years later, we are both comfortable living in the United States. But my mom would still feel equally comfortable going back to live in Poland. She considers herself Polonia (“Polish living abroad”), while I consider myself Polish-American. I love my country, and I’m proud to be Polish, to be able to maintain my native tongue. But my home is here.