by Qin Sun Stubis
(originally published in The Santa Monica Star 2008)
Many years ago, I asked an American in China to name a meaningful American holiday besides the Fourth of July. “Thanksgiving,” he answered without hesitation. He told me that the first pilgrim settlers dedicated this day to give thanks to their American Indian friends who had helped them to build their lives in this new land.
“Besides,” he said, “a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with a stuffed turkey, corn bread, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce is about as American as can be.”
What is a turkey? I wondered. I grew curious about this mysterious bird that I had never heard of so I looked it up in my Chinese-English dictionary. “Fire chicken,” it said. I envisioned a turkey to be a bright red chicken, as red as fire. Red is a lucky color, I thought with my Chinese mindset. No wonder Americans eat turkeys for this special holiday.
In 1989 I came to America and had my first Thanksgiving. I liked the turkey dinner, although I was disappointed to find that my “fire chicken” was not red. Since then, I learned to prepare my own turkey dinner, including chestnut stuffing and homemade pumpkin pie.
I savor the American dream of having my own house, car, a loving husband and two children. I give my thanks to the United States of America, its rich wealth that I share, and its freedom and democracy, of which I am a part.
Despite all our blessings, this has been a very hard year for America. A million families saw their American dreams burst like bubbles, losing their homes in the subprime mortgage meltdown. Others lost their jobs because of the bad economy, or watched their bank accounts and credit lines shrink as the country moved toward what looks like (and we all hope is not) a financial chasm.
When Thanksgiving arrives this year, some families may not be able to afford a grand turkey dinner, or even have a kitchen or dining room to prepare and eat this special meal. Millions more families will sit around their tables and eat their turkey dinners, haunted by financial worries, empty stock portfolios, and mortgage delinquency notices.
When I was growing up in China, I lived through extreme poverty and understand how it feels to survive in subzero weather without heat and food. I imagine that having everything and then losing it all is equally hard.
But I’m confident that America is a strong nation, and its people will bounce back the way their ancestors on the Mayflower conquered their difficulties when they first started out in America. You can always buy another house and rebuild your dreams so long as you don’t lose your confident and pioneering spirit, which make this–and every–Thanksgiving extremely important.
Although turkeys turned out not to have the fiery-red feathers I believed they did, they are still my lucky birds. I have faith that these “fire chickens” and all the Thanksgivings ahead will bring lots of luck to America’s families and remind them to carry on the ancestral pioneering spirit that has made–and kept–the United States of America so strong.
Thanks for reading my column. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Qin Stubis is a regular columnist in The Santa Monica Star. She lives in Bethesda, MD.