Giving Thanks without Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I loved the food and family and gathering with friends, especially as it was one of the few non-religious holidays. I love stuffing and gravy and cranberry sauce, but I had never thought about how the smell of the pies baking was shadowed by a history of colonization, of genocide, and stolen children, stolen lands and languages.

But over the last few years, I have become more unsettled to “celebrate” it. I have noticed that in many ways it has been recast it as a day of gratitude. However I should be grateful every day, and reshaping a day that celebrates colonization and genocide of peoples and cultures seems like another act of aggression. And one of erasure. Again.

So instead, my four-year-old and I spent today learning about indigenous people and colonization. Today we talked about the real history of Thanksgiving. After some discussion of Pilgrims, family history, whiteness and white privilege, his response was, “We killed the indigenous people?!?” Why would we do that?!” So simple. He learned about the history and at four, quickly extrapolated the historical significance.

It sparked a conversation about money and capitalism and land use and culture, at an age-appropriate level. In that moment, when he was so sad that white people were oppressors that they had killed indigenous people, I wanted to comfort him. I wanted to assure him it’s not us, we didn’t do it personally, it’s not our fault.

But that’s not true. If you look at our nation’s current policies and political situation, it’s still happening. Tho bodies of stolen children are still being found on the grounds of boarding schools. Activists protesting pipelines and tribal sovereignty are still being arrested. So if we don’t learn, and we don’t do something, it is our fault. It was and continues to be. So as a parent, I had to dig past that discomfort, own it and continue the work.

We didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving this year, but instead reflected on history and how we can contribute to change, each day and every day. Because just like being grateful, this is work that needs to be done every day, not just once a year.

Back to Içmeler

I have spent most or part of the summer in Içmeler since 2009. When we moved back to the US in 2015 we didn’t go to Içmeler that summer. I have missed it more than I realized. It has also changed quite a bit. Between the “attempted” coup, the bombing in the Istanbul Airport in 2016 and the rate of inflation, the tourism rate is down significantly. We can see the results in the community here, and the business that are, and no longer there.

What I have been enjoying the most is watching Kayra absorb the language and the culture. What I have appreciated the most, is watching his grandparents interact with him, and respect the differences in which we have been raising him. For example Turkish folks kiss and hug babies. This means waiters kiss his cheeks and touch his face, strangers will stroke his face and kiss his hands, teenagers will pick him up and play with him. We have been raising Kayra with bodily autonomy, meaning we ask him if he wants kisses and hugs, and if he says no we respect that. While it is hard for them to not smother him in kisses and hugs, but they do ask, and listen to him, at least 70% of the time. It’s a start.